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'Medicine street team' | Group works to prevent homeless deaths in Chula Vista

A team of four outreach workers are providing emergency relief services, wound care, hygiene products, food and other items to people living in encampments.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — As the number of deaths among people experiencing homelessness rise, a Chula Vista nonprofit, Community Through Hope, is helping to prevent the numbers from increasing with a new street medicine team.

“We’re seeing folks inside shelters and folks on the streets die, we just had a client who just passed a couple of weeks ago who was 47,” said Sebastian Martinez, who is part of the organization with his mother and Co-Founder of the nonprofit. 

Martinez says homeless are dying on the streets and the number of deaths is increasing in the South Bay. A former client of Martinez by the name of Erik, recently died from breathing problems at a campsite. Erik's friend tried to save him but didn't know how, he later died on top of his own oxygen tank.

“It was an asthmatic attack and his community members didn’t know how to use his oxygen tank and I just kept thinking if they had been educated, he would still be alive,” said Martinez.

However, this is just one case that Martinez mentioned, many other deaths have been blamed on several issues, including a lack of services and drug overdoses.

“A part of it is this increase in fentanyl,” said Gretchen Bergman, who is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of A New Path, which focuses on treatment.

With alarming death numbers on the rise, the organization has launched a street medicine team that could help save lives.

A team of four outreach workers are providing emergency relief services, wound care, hygiene products, food and other items to people living in encampments.

“Just doing a really good needs assessment about what's needed at the street level regarding medicine based outreach,” said Martinez’s mother, Rosy Vazquez.

According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office, there was a 20 percent increase in deaths in 2021 compared to 2020. 

Organizations who focus on treatment, say access to Narcan, which is a critical medication to prevent people from overdosing is what is needed. Adding that more efforts on outreach programs instead of policing can improve the crisis.

WATCH RELATED: Senior homelessness could be on the rise in San Diego (April 2022).

    

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