California funds groups to serve food to Medi-Cal’s poor, just like medicine – California News

California funds groups to serve food to Medi-Cal’s poor, just like medicine – California News


Federico Guzmán moved from Mexico to San Francisco in 1992, fleeing anti-gay sentiment and searching for AIDS treatment.

He couldn’t find a job and sometimes went hungry until friends introduced him to Project Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that began serving free, nutritious meals to HIV patients in 1985.

The people there “were like angels from the sky,” said Guzmán, 50, who went home from his first visit with vegetables, eggs, bread and beans. He continues to receive medically tailored meals from the group.

Project Open Hand cooks 2,500 meals and provides 200 bags of groceries to sick patients every day, part of its mission to help them get healthier and stay motivated to battle their diseases. The organization has expanded beyond HIV to feed people with other chronic illnesses, including diabetes and kidney failure, and it also delivers food to adults with disabilities.

The state government recently awarded $6 million to Project Open Hand and similar nonprofits to provide these services to sick Californians covered by Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the federal Medicaid program for low-income people.

The three-year pilot program, which begins in January, was included in the recently adopted 2017-18 state budget. Project Open Hand will lead the effort, which involves five other food nonprofits across California.

Through the initiative, nonprofits will be able to identify heavy Medi-Cal users — in particular, chronically ill patients who are readmitted to the hospital for preventable reasons within 30 days of being discharged, said Project Open Hand CEO Mark Ryle.

The pilot program will debut at…

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