Improving Health Care for People Experiencing Homelessness

Barbara DiPietro, Ph.D., directs the policy and advocacy activities for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. This includes conducting policy analysis, providing educational materials and presentations to a broad range of policymakers and other stakeholders, coordinating the Council’s policy priorities with national partners, and organizing staff assistance to the Policy Committee.

Email: bdipietro@nhchc.org

Jim O’Connell, M.D., MTh, graduated with a master’s degree in theology from Cambridge University in 1972 and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1982. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). He began full-time clinical work with homeless individuals as the founding physician of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, which now serves over 11,000 homeless persons each year. Dr. O’Connell also established the nation’s first medical respite program for homeless persons in September 1985 in the Lemuel Shattuck Shelter. Working with the MGH Laboratory of Computer Science, Dr. O’Connell designed and implemented the nation’s first computerized medical record for a homeless program in 1995. From 1989 until 1996, Dr. O’Connell served as the National Program Director of the Homeless Families Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dr. O’Connell has been featured on ABC’s Nightline and in several feature-length documentaries including Give Me a Shot of Anything and The Antidote. He has received numerous awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award in 2012 and The Trustees’ Medal at the bicentennial celebration of MGH in 2011. Dr. O’Connell currently serves as president of BHCHP and as an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Email: joconnell@bhchp.org

Ellen Lawton, J.D., is a national expert in the integration of legal professionals into the health care setting to address the social determinants of health. She helped found and then led the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at George Washington University. An expert in poverty law generally, she is internationally recognized for her leadership in developing the medical-legal partnership model, and has published an array of articles describing this work in clinical and legal journals. She received the Innovations in Legal Services Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, was a member of the Legal Services Corporation’s 2019 Opioid Use Task Force, and serves on the national advisory committee for the Primary Care Leadership Program. She is also a member of the board of directors of Community Resources for Justice and the Institute for Community Health.

Contact: ellen@healthbegins.org

David Peery, J.D., is passionately seeking an end to homelessness throughout Florida while advocating for homeless rights; and David knows a thing or two about rights, as he holds a law degree. When David experienced homelessness, he was led to Camillus Health Concern where he became a member of the struggling CAB and attempted to regain the consumer voice in governance, focusing on educating and empowering consumers to take control of their health care. In his deep commitment to advocacy he is a class representative in a federal class action lawsuit that establishes the rights of people experiencing homelessness in Miami, and works to combat the criminalization of homelessness.

Email: peerylaw@gmail.com