Thank you UCSF Science of Caring for highlighting our efforts to meet the health care needs of young people experiencing homelessness! Here is the story in full:

In San Francisco, it is not uncommon to find teens and young adults wandering the streets, many of them runaways, many of them confronting struggles with substance use, risky sexual behavior, food insecurity, housing instability, joblessness and the type of despair that typically accompanies life on the streets. Since 1984, Larkin Street Youth Services has given these youth a place to call home in the city.

Serving these young people, however, is an evolving challenge, so the organization is always on the lookout for ways to expand and improve its offerings. In 2017, they turned to the School and Carol Dawson-Rose for help. Dawson-Rose and Larkin Street then secured a five-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to undertake a needs assessment and help implement suggested changes that would emerge from the assessment.

“I’m now working with leadership on how to build capacity and training frontline staff on motivational interviewing to help them help their clients,” says Dawson-Rose.

“Nearly everything we’re working on [with the School] is bringing new value,” says Eva Kersey, Larkin Street’s manager of Health Interventions and HIV Prevention. “The grant allowed us to restart HIV [human immunodeficiency virus] testing, and we will add rapid hepatitis C testing in the near future. The focused training on motivational interviewing helps our direct service staff get more comfortable with the technique, while also giving us a curriculum that we can use with new staff in the future.”

In addition, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) students are now running weekly groups on trauma and substance use with Larkin Street clients. The groups are a standardized seven-week program of group therapy, called Seeking Safety, for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and co-occurring substance use.

“We were very impressed by how these young people engaged with the material,” says Marlene Thompson, one of the two NP students who led groups at Larkin Street in the first year of the grant. “It was very humbling to go on that journey with them – and really satisfying to offer something that could tangibly help their lives.”

“We left each group feeling very positive about the conversations we had,” says Michelle Hanna, the other group leader. “We all learned something we could take home.”

For their part, Larkin Street hopes the groups continue even after the grant is completed, perhaps through clinical placements for PMHNP students. “The students have done a really good job, and one of the benefits is that the providers of tomorrow are learning about the issues of marginalized, transitional-age youth, who in turn will be better served in the community,” says Julie Frank, Larkin Street’s director of Behavioral Health.

In short, Frank continues, “This partnership builds on the strengths of both organizations – a collaboration of the right partners.”

For more, read UCSF’s Community blog.