20% of Homeless Hospitalized 3 Times in Last Year

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , July 18, 2011

At least one in 10 reported asthma, diabetes, hepatitis C, or a heart condition. About 5% said they had been diagnosed with emphysema or cancer. More than half – 57% reported a history of substance abuse and 45% had symptoms of mental illness.

The organization's goal is to encourage partnerships between community organizations, physicians, and hospitals to find housing for homeless individuals, without which treatment for the other conditions a homeless person faces will more likely fail, Craig said.

Hospitals may have a greater incentive to participate in such community programs as they will soon face penalties in federal reimbursement – under provisions of the Affordable Care Act – if they have higher risk-adjusted rates of readmissions than other hospitals.

Craig said that programs launched by Bellevue Hospital Center and Woodhull Medical Center in New York City and Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia have reported that their involvement in housing projects helped keep homeless people off the street, and out of the hospital.

And a collaboration of hospitals in Los Angeles has developed housing programs in nearby Bell where homeless patients can be discharged – after their acute care needs are met – so that hospitals can avoid releasing them to the street, in violation of city laws. Before that project was started, hospitals were forced to keep homeless patients in a hospital bed even if they were well enough to go home, if they had one.

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