Partnership will serve people with medical needs who are experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness
PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS) announced today the launch of a pilot program aimed at addressing the needs of Rhode Islanders who are experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness who have acute injuries and illnesses. The program will be managed by Westbay Community Action, together with the State and multiple community partners.
“Last year, my administration and the General Assembly made a once in a generation investment in housing for the State of Rhode Island,” said Governor Dan McKee. “People experiencing homelessness with acute medical and behavioral health conditions have unique needs that often cannot and should not be managed while living on the street or in shelters that are not equipped to facilitate recovery. I am thankful to our team and the community partners who stepped up to help us continue building a continuum of housing supports for all.”
The Medical Respite Care pilot will serve community members statewide experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity who are preparing for or recovering from medical procedures, hospitalization, or generally are in need of a safe place to heal from an acute illness or injury. For example, an individual experiencing homelessness with a broken leg, or in need of wound care for a burn or other skin issue would be a potential client for this program. In addition, select beds have been assessed by a team of clinical infection preventionists, and will be available for referral by the Rhode Island Department of Health for individuals required to isolate from an infectious disease such as COVID-19.
“One of our agency’s top priorities is focusing on the root causes and social determinants of health, of which housing is a critical piece,” said EOHHS Acting Secretary Ana Novais. “Medical respite care improves each client’s overall health by providing a safe environment to medically recover, addresses health-related social needs by providing clients with necessary wraparound services, and decreases healthcare expenditures by preventing recurring illness and emergency visits.”
The program, located at the Hallworth House facility at 66 Benefit Street in Providence, will begin with an initial capacity of 20 beds with plans to add an additional 10 beds as need and funding dictate.
“Westbay Community Action is honored to be able to partner with the State of Rhode Island to begin the Medical Respite Pilot Program run out of Hallworth House in Providence, Rhode Island. This opportunity will provide those individuals facing homelessness and housing insecurity an environment to safely recover from their acute medical problems, while also providing wrap around service to assist with housing stabilization, case management services and access to state programs,” said Paul Salera, President/CEO of Westbay Community Action.
Referrals will initially only be accepted through existing pilot partners (RIDOH, Thundermist, Providence Community Health Centers and Lifespan), but will have the potential to expand to other referral sources as the pilot is evaluated and if scale-up plans are initiative.
“We are honored to collaborate with EOHHS on the provision of medical respite services in Rhode Island to provide a necessary bridge in the road to recovery for individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Barry Fabius, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Rhode Island. “Medical respite can serve as a safety net for many fragile patients who don’t have a safe and appropriate place to transition to after a hospitalization, leading to overall improved health outcomes and better quality of life.”
Clients will be engaged with a medical provider, who will oversee client care and recovery. Additional services will be offered on site, including connections to social supports and programs, behavioral healthcare resources, housing navigation support, and medication assisted treatment as needed. Clients will be provided with a single room with 24-hour access to an established bed, three meals per day, and cleaning and laundry service. Each person’s length of stay in the program is dependent on their individual recovery period and treatment plan.
“Housing is a public health emergency in Rhode Island,” said Paul George, MD, Thundermist Health Center. “Access to safe, stable housing is directly connected to a person’s overall health. I see the need for this program when taking care of patients every day. Combining housing and health care is an innovative approach that will save lives. This is an important next step in addressing homelessness in Rhode Island.”
People experiencing homelessness have complex social and health care needs and use hospitals at higher rates and for longer periods of time than their housed counterparts. According to Rhode Island’s Point-in-Time Count, from 2021
to 2022, the population of those who are unsheltered and chronically homeless increased 105 percent, and adults experiencing homelessness increased 35 percent.
“A significant number of individuals who are homeless or lack appropriate housing to recover from an acute medical condition also have behavioral health conditions – which means substance use, mental health conditions or both. This makes them one of the most vulnerable populations that our agency is dedicated to serving,” said BHDDH Director Richard Charest. “A Medical Respite program would help these individuals recover from their acute condition, and with behavioral healthcare resources provided along with medical care, this will give many individuals who fall through the cracks due to homelessness an opportunity to be connected to much needed behavioral healthcare after they recover from their medical condition.”
Partners for this pilot include:
Westbay Community Action
Thundermist Health Center
Providence Community Health Centers
Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness
Housing is Health Collaborative
UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Rhode Island
Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS)
Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)
Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH)
State of Rhode Island Department of Housing
“One of our goals as a community health center is to proactively address – and when possible, prevent – conditions that negatively impact a person’s health,” said Ray Parris, Executive Director of the Providence Community Health Centers’ Accountable Entity. “The Medical Respite Program will increase the odds of a successful recovery following a hospitalization while lowering the readmission rates for this already vulnerable group of people. We are proud to partner with the state of Rhode Island and other health organizations on this innovative program.”
This Program is made possible with funding from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Consolidated Homeless Fund through the City of Providence and Office of Housing, Thundermist Health Center, Providence Community Health Centers, Lifespan, and the Rhode Island Department of Health.
“Thank you to the Westbay Community Action Program, the City of Providence, and the RI Executive Office of Health and Human Services for providing support to Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness with acute medical and behavioral health conditions with the Hallworth House Pilot,” said Caitlin Frumerie, Executive Director, Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness. “As the Housing is Health Collaborative lead and fiscal agent for Westbay, we welcome and see the Medical Respite Pilot’s potential as a difference-maker in the health of unhoused Rhode Islanders with needs that often cannot nor should be managed while living on the street or in shelters not equipped to facilitate recovery. Connecting Rhode Islanders with medical providers, social supports, housing navigation support, and other resources help disrupt the cycle of homelessness and provide a brighter future for those in need.”
The Medical Respite pilot will be extended in six-month increments, depending on availability of funding and program performance. For more information about the Medical Respite program, please visit https://eohhs.ri.gov/initiatives/medical-respite-care.