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RE: Response to Distorted Story of Homeless Neglect

  • Category: Community
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: George Mikitarian, Jr.
RE: Response to Distorted Story of Homeless Neglect

June 5, 2024

RE: Response to Distorted Story of Homeless Neglect

Open Letter to the Community,

Homelessness is a serious community issue. As is mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Unfortunately, the list of societal-based issues is far too long. And, Parrish Medical Center (PMC) often finds itself, while always focusing its attention in fulfilling our mission as a public, community hospital, confronted with these issues more than most. However, like PMC, hospitals everywhere are working with their communities to participate in finding and implementing solutions. To be successful, it requires collegial collaboration, communication, and compassion, not reckless commentary. When people would rather jump to conclusions, and, with the speed by which social media works, spread misinformation and hostile (vitriol) comments, rather than offer constructive thoughts and participate in solving the myriad of problems contributing to these serious societal issues, it is counterproductive.

I’m aware of a social post that has gone “viral,” as they say, involving a homeless gentleman who visited our emergency department on June 3, 2024. The social post, unfortunately, but all too common, does not accurately portray the whole story. It is deeply disheartening to see the community for whom we dedicate ourselves to serving, be so hateful. One such vitriolic post criticized Parrish Care Partners during a “hospital-sanctioned fundraising event” which, in reality, is a fundraising event to support programs and services in our community to address the very issues that the post was criticizing. Over the years, Parrish Care Partners have raised over $1 million, donating their own money, for such programs. Parrish Care Partners, also, donate thousands of hours each year to support community-based, non-profit organizations that strive to address many of society’s issues. So, rather than say “thank you” we get vitriol (hostility).

PMC has donated, in cash or with in-kind contributions, millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours over the past 10 years to many of our community’s non-profit organizations that serve with the spirit of collaboration to address the many serious societal issues with which our citizens struggle. We will not waiver in our belief that together, we can (and will) make a difference in solving the growing number of people experiencing homelessness and other challenges our community is facing.

I do not blame the poster. However, I do blame those who criticize before they understand and learn. Facts matter. Not opinions piled on-top of more opinions. All this accomplishes is the perpetuation of misinformation and hatefulness. It does nothing to contribute to a solution. In this particular case, the writer of the post was reacting to the story he was told. To emphasize a key point, we have a proud track-record of working collaboratively, and have great admiration, for the mission and work of LifePointe Ministries, Under the Bridge Ministries, and many other community organizations that we partner with through our Community Health Partnership initiative and our Care Navigation Program. We are bound by privacy rules, which prevent us from challenging many of the inaccurate and false accounts of a person’s hospital experience. However, in this case, we have permission from the gentleman at the center of the distorted story of “homeless neglect” to disclose the events of June 3, without detailing his private medical information.

The gentleman is indeed insured and has family, albeit estranged, in the area. He has been treated at PMC eight times for non-life-threatening conditions, since April. His issues are more long-term in nature, caused by his lifestyle choices. It is well documented that he was offered many resources throughout the course of his eight visits to PMC all of which he has refused. The gentleman, himself, has admitted (and is well-documented) that he uses the emergency department for room and board. We do not turn anyone away. However, the misuse of the emergency department puts us in a tough position. When a person uses the emergency department for non-emergencies it takes away resources from someone who may really need emergency attention.

Our Care Navigation team has worked diligently and compassionately to try to find solutions for this gentleman, including providing him a care package with clothes (even though he often removes and refuses to wear those clothes). In addition, we have offered rehab services (he refused); shelter arrangements in communities that have those resources (he refused); getting him set up for primary care with Space Coast Health Centers (he refused); among many other resources. Contrary to the story the gentleman provided, we absolutely do provide, and did provide, meals during each and every one of his visits. In fact, the list of services offered to him by other communities where he has previously resided, such as Orlando and Daytona, are equally comprehensive. The gentleman did ultimately agree to go to the Under the Bridge Ministries at Sandpoint Park on Monday, June 3, where our very own PMC healthcare providers, with our partners at Space Coast Health Centers, were poised to get him connected with outpatient care services to avoid his unnecessary ED visits. However, he was mistakenly taken to the wrong place. For that we do sincerely apologize. The truth is, a person, homeless or not, must be a participant and a partner in their own plan of care to be successful. Unfortunately, we have no control over the life choices people make.

I commend the caring and compassion demonstrated by our more than 900 Care Partners who come to work every day and give of their hearts and souls (and their own money) to the people in their care. They go above and beyond for patients and the community. They are the ones who are hurt by the hatefulness being generated by this distorted story of “homeless neglect.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

We look forward to our continued work and focus on finding solutions that build-bridges between the hospital and our community partners to close gaps in care, addressing the housing crisis, food insecurities, among the multitude of other health and human service resource needs. And, I personally want to thank LifePointe Ministries and Under the Bridge Ministries for their tireless work on behalf of our community.


George Mikitarian, Jr.