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Imagine you are hospitalized for severe frostbite on your feet. You can't walk, and standing causes excruciating pain. You've lost your job and your home, and are about to be discharged from the hospital. You don’t have any family or friends to help and don’t know where you are going to go. The hospital gives you supplies to keep your dressings clean and they give you medication for pain, but you aren’t sure how you’re going to recover without a place to stay or knowing where your next meal will come from. Sleeping in a shelter involves standing in line for a bed, and standing in other lines for food, but you can’t imagine how you will manage in your condition. What would you do?
The first patient accepted into the new Higher Ground Saint Paul medical respite unit—part of the new Dorothy Day Place in Saint Paul--didn’t have to imagine this situation; it was his reality. The Medica Foundation awarded Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis a $40,000 grant for a behavioral health professional as part of a new 16 bed facility to serve people discharged from local hospitals needing a safe and dignified place to recuperate and heal. The unit provides care for medically and psychiatrically complex individuals experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover on the streets, but who do not require hospital-based care. Staff offer nurse care coordination, medication assistance, and behavioral health services to support clients as they stabilize their health. The Higher Ground Saint Paul respite unit is staffed with nurses, a mental health worker, and a community health worker, with support from housing advocates.
Last year, an estimated 300 people were discharged from St. Joseph’s Hospital alone who were homeless and had nowhere to recover. Without a safe, stable home, minor health problems can quickly become life threatening and require costly emergency care. Chronic medical conditions that require careful management—such as mental illness, diabetes, asthma, and cancer—frequently spiral out of control for people experiencing homelessness. The results—both human and financial—can be catastrophic. “If someone has a home, it is easier to recover after an illness or surgery,” said Diana Vance-Bryan, senior vice president of health services and chief administrative officer of Catholic Charities. “Things that seem simple—like getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids—are nearly impossible to achieve if you are homeless. People experiencing homelessness often lack support networks to help them recover.”
Medica is a proud supporter of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and this innovative facility.