Courtney Pladsen

Courtney Pladsen
Location: Nashville, Tennessee Cohort Start Year: 2018 Project Topics: Addiction and Substance Abuse, Behavioral and Mental Health, Health Care Access, Health Care Quality, LGBTQ+ Health, Nurses and Nursing, Public, Population and Community Health Populations Served: Adults (21-64 years), At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Drug/Alcohol/Tobacco Users, Homeless Populations, Immigrants and Refugees, Incarcerated or Formerly Incarcerated Populations, LGBTQ+ Communities, Low-Income Communities, People with Addictions, People with Disabilities, Urban Communities
Director of Clinical &Quality Improvement
National Health Care for the Homeless Council

Dr. Courtney Pladsen dreams of a world where healthcare and housing are human rights where people have the opportunity to en their healthiest selves. Achieving health and well-being is nearly impossible while sleeping on the street, yet nearly 500,000 people experience homelessness in any given night in the richest country in the world. Courtney leads efforts on the national level at the intersection of health and housing. She is a part of the movement to end homelessness while ensuring those who are currently unhoused have access to healthcare. Whether someone is sleeping in a shelter or on the street, they deserve access to high-quality care. Courtney leads US-wide efforts to develop a continuum of health care for people experiencing homelessness through the development and growth of medical respite, street medicine, medical outreach, health care for the homeless health centers, and strengthening partnerships between hospitals and health centers.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Create Continuum of Care for Unhoused Persons in Portland, Maine
The goal of the initiative is to create a continuum of healthcare for people experiencing homelessness in Portland, Maine. The mean age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 51 years old, an astonishing 28 years less than the general population. Homeless individuals lack the basic necessities to manage illnesses and are more likely to experience exacerbations secondary to lack of resources. The focus of 2020–21 was to improve access to healthcare by establishing a telemedicine service for people experiencing homelessness in outreach sites. Secondary pieces to the healthcare continuum included the opening of a recuperative care program in the spring of 2021 and the planning of a health center within the new city homeless shelter in 2022. You cannot experience wellness without housing—housing is healthcare. The long-term goal of the continuum is to improve health outcomes and use wraparound medical services as an intervention to decrease chronic homelessness in Portland, Maine.

Dr. Courtney Pladsen has worked in the healthcare safety net for over fifteen years in emergency departments and federally qualified health centers. Witnessing social barriers to care cause poor health outcomes fuels her fight to end homelessness. Homelessness is an intersectional issue. Survivors of domestic violence, people experiencing poverty, LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, and people who use drugs all disproportionally experience homelessness. Having experienced poverty and homelessness in her childhood, this fight is also personal for Courtney.

Being a part of the Culture of Health movement is essential in creating intersectional movement building. Homelessness could end overnight with enough affordable housing, but that wouldn’t stop the pipeline of people entering homelessness. We need to focus on addressing systemic racism, gender-based violence, and the war on drugs to create a more just and equitable system that will not only end current homelessness but also prevent it in the future. This is what a Culture of Health would look like.


Click here to watch Courtney’s Legacy Project video.