Every Tuesday, the Homeless are the Priority at This Biloxi Clinic


Dr Michael Dorcik
Dr. Michael Dorcik

Coastal Family Health Center opens its doors once a month to one of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s most vulnerable populations.

Each Tuesday, the Biloxi clinic designates one of its nurse practitioners exclusively to see walk-in patients who are homeless – free of charge.

The medical provider also accepts homeless patients other days of the week, split up among Dr. Michael Dorcik and a total of three nurse practitioners. Over the course of a month, he estimates, the four will see anywhere from 90 to 120 homeless.

‘No Money, No Income, We Still Take Them’

“We are the only clinic that I know of on the Coast that has a day just for homeless to come in,” says Dorcik, who also serves as chief medical officer for Coastal’s operation of 13 facilities in 10 south Mississippi cities. “Coastal will take them. No money, no income, we still take them.

It’s a total coast we absorb – labs, meds.”

“And they’re treated no different than the ones who are fully insured. You see them sleeping in the streets, but we take care of them. That’s why we designate Tuesday – that way they know they have a day when they can come in and be seen.

“It’s a total coast we absorb – labs, meds. The amount of meds we give out for no payment, you’d be dumbfounded; it’s just unbelievable.”

Southern Miss Helps Extend Care Resources

Dorcik also oversees a Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program through the federal Health Resources & Services Administration and a hepatitis C treatment program. Coastal relies on federal funding and grant money to help offset the cost of services to all these patient populations.

USM was fully engaged in our federally funded Health Care for the Homeless Program.”

Until recently, it also had the help of University of Southern Mississippi social workers and social work graduate students, who were paid through a multiyear grant that resulted from the legal settlement of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the Gulf Coast.

The grant, which ended in November 2018, focused on integrating social workers to increase mental and behavioral health care to complement the medical care from Coastal practitioners.

“USM was fully engaged in our federally funded Health Care for the Homeless Program in regards to our certification screenings and eligibility screenings,” says Larry Knight, Coastal’s chief operating officer. “There is nowhere else for the homeless to go. The addition of this partnership allowed us to greatly expand our behavioral and mental health programs … which was quite significant after (Hurricane) Katrina and the oil spill.”

Over the course of the grant, social workers conducted 880 screenings of 780 homeless patients. Coastal had a four-year high for percentage of homeless patients treated, 10.9 percent, in 2017, according to federal data the provider is required to report.

Knight says the additional resources made it easier to identify mental health issues. “We don’t have more people coming in with mental health problems, but I think we have better tools to detect and diagnose.”

‘I Guess That’s Why I’m There’

He points to Coastal’s willingness to reach out proactively to the homeless community. Besides identifying patients by working with nonprofit organizations such as Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Open Doors Homeless Coalition in Gulfport and local food pantries, Coastal goes where the homeless are living.

Those patients, they’re good patients; they’re no different from somebody that has a ton of money and drives a Mercedes.”

“We have staff on board that go out under the bridges and tent cities and schedule appointments. And we make sure we arrange transportation for them,” Knight says.

Dorcik says the proximity of the Biloxi clinic to its at-risk patients shows its commitment: “We had two crack houses behind us. How many private offices are going to put their clinics there?” he asks.

“We went down to where the needs are. Those patients, they’re good patients; they’re no different from somebody that has a ton of money and drives a Mercedes. We still take care of them. I guess that’s why I’m there.”

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