GRASSROOTS HEALTH began as a CPRIT-funded (Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas) program in Houston in 2018. Initially GRASSROOTS HEALTH was only in the Houston metroplex, partnering with Healthcare for the Homeless Houston to bring HBV/HCV treatment and care to permanent supportive housing (PSH) residents. However, after 4 successful years of activity, GRASSROOTS HEALTH was re-funded by CPRIT to expand to other areas of Texas. In October of 2022, GRASSROOTS HEALTH had its first testing events in San Antonio, and is planning to expand outside of San Antonio in 2023, reaching Frio, Guadalupe and Comal counties.
The field of homeless services has moved towards a permanent supportive housing (PSH) model. PSH provides a unique opportunity to reach and engage individuals with experiences of homelessness who are in a stable setting and need education, testing and treatment for HBV and HCV. GRASSROOTS HEALTH is an innovative cross-sector collaboration between an academic institution, an affordable/permanent supported housing provider and a federally qualified health center designed to bring individuals with experiences of homelessness through the full continuum of hepatitis B and C care including education, testing, vaccination and treatment. It eliminates barriers to engagement in care by bringing services directly to the door of permanently supportive housing residents.
Pamela Love said that ease of access and convenience allowed her and her husband to get tested and vaccinated. She was very impressed with the GRASSROOTS program, especially how residents were informed about when the team would be on site.
“Two days before [the event], I got a knock on my door, and they explained what it involved,” Love said. “I thought that was very beneficial because it not only included the hepatitis shots but also checking for liver cancer, and that got my attention.”
Love said the GRASSROOTS staff was welcoming and patient with her fear of needles, and she was grateful when they hand-delivered her blood test results a few days later.
“And then, if you needed it, the vaccine could be given to you right there on the spot - that’s awesome... Knowledge is power,” Love said. “And knowing how [hepatitis] can be transmitted helps you stay alert because I do not want to get it. Overall, I think this is truly necessary in the community and I’m just glad that I was able to be a part of it.”