August 18, 2011

RxCOVERY in Seattle

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Today’s Recovery Act success story comes from HUD’s Region X.

If you’re on the north side of 30, you surely know the drill.  You’ve just had a colonoscopy.  Or your wisdom teeth pulled.  Or an in-at-6-out-by-11 ambulatory surgery.

You’ve been in recovery an hour or so. You know your name, that five follows four, and that today is Wednesday.  You’re tired, a bit woozy, but then you hear the doctor say, “you can go home.” You smile and, fortunately, have regained faculties enough not to answer “whaaa?”

Which is why, among life’s many miracles, one of the best is having loved ones, one of whom stands right next to your hospital bed, ready, willing and eager to take you home. Gently, sweetly, lovingly, you’re lifted out of the wheelchair, loaded into a car, put into p.j.’s and helped into your very own bed to sleep, sleep and sleep some more.

But what if you’re homeless? With no loved one. No car. No p.j.’s. No bed. Just a cardboard box, a sleeping bag and a grate. Not exactly what the doctor ordered.

It’s a question King County’s Committee to End Homelessness has asked for years. On August 2, the Seattle Housing Authority provided one answer, opening the doors to a brand new, 34-bed Medical Respite Center that, it says, will “serve over 500 homeless individuals a year.

You get there by taking the dedicated express elevator to the 7th floor of the 17-story Jefferson Terrace, a public housing complex built in 1967 on Seattle’s First Hill that offers supportive housing to some 260 very low-income people, many of them formerly homeless.  In late 2009, the Authority decided to convert all 22 studio apartments on the floor into a “full blown medical facility” with funds from King County, United Way, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Department of Health and Human Services, and HUD. Ready for its first admissions in September, the Center provides 16 semi-private rooms, examination and interview rooms, a community room and a laundry. The 34 beds double the capacity of the current program to provide respite care to the homeless.

It’s an “excellent example ,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, who chairs the Committee to End Homelessness, “of our medical, behavioral health and housing partners coming together to maximize our resources, coordinate care, and create opportunities for better health and stability for a very vulnerable population.”

Admission is by referral only for those “well enough to be discharged from the hospital,” but who “have nowhere else to go.”  Clients will stay an average of 21 days at an estimated cost of $200 a day, significantly less than the $1,500 daily cost of inpatient hospital care.

The Center will be operated by Public Health Services of Seattle-King County and staffed by Harborview Hospital with support from the University of Washington Medical Center, Swedish Health Services, Valley Medical Center,  Evergreen Healthcare,  Virginia Mason Medical Center and St Francis Hospital.

“The streets are no place to try to recover from a medical procedure or an illness.  That’s just common sense,” said HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride.  “What’s uncommon, indeed extraordinary about this Center is the broad partnership of medical and social service providers who’ve come together to insure that timely and first-rate care is provided to some of our most vulnerable citizens.  HUD is proud to have been a part of this path-breaking effort.”

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