By Scott J. Sivik
Last Friday, I spent the night outside on a cardboard box for the second time. It remains one of the most humbling experiences for me each year. The weather was unpredictable, the streets were loud, and needless to say, I only got a few hours of real sleep.
It’s hard to complain about one night spent outside when there are more than 7,000 homeless individuals in Hawaii who struggle with this reality every day.
It was a privilege to participate in the annual #CEOSleepout organized by The Salvation Army Hawaiian & Pacific Islands. Together, ‘Ohana Health Plan and other local businesses and organizations, slept outside of the state capitol rotunda in Honolulu to better understand the struggles of Hawaii’s homeless residents, while raising awareness and needed funds for food, shelter, clothing and more.
Today, Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the United States. Many of these residents not only lack housing, but access to food, transportation and other basic human services. They also face untreated chronic conditions and mental health issues and lack access to needed medications and primary care services.
For me, the experience puts into sharp focus that many of us are just one or two bad breaks away from being homeless ourselves. I’m fortunate to have a home, a steady income with benefits, and a loving family and support system. But nothing is guaranteed, and anything from financial loss to illness can change that in an instant.
I share this experience with my fellow associates as we work to help our members in Hawaii—and across the country—live better, healthier lives. As a health plan, our job is to provide our members with access to high-quality healthcare services. But we can only be successful if we go beyond healthcare to fully understand their individual needs and life circumstances, while connecting them to the healthcare and social services they need to have good health.
In this way, we work hard to exemplify, “Beyond Healthcare. A Better You.”
Scott Sivik is the state president of ‘Ohana Health Plan.