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Allegheny Health Network Medical Respite Program Provides Safe Haven, Healing Environment for Discharged Patients Who Lack Stable Housing

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – To better meet the healthcare needs of the homeless and unstably-housed population, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) has established a new Medical Respite Program that provides patients recovering from illnesses with a  safe place to recuperate and receive ongoing non-acute care and support following a hospital stay. This innovative model represents the first and only medical respite program in the tri-state region.

“The transition home after a hospital stay can be challenging for any patient who requires additional support during recovery from an illness,” said Patrick Perri, MD, Medical Director of the AHN Medical Respite Program. “But for patients who are homeless or in an unstable living arrangement, leaving the hospital is an even more daunting and potentially dangerous prospect.”

With 10 beds spread between Bethlehem Haven (a part of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System) and Wood Street Commons (run by Community Human Services) – existing homeless services facilities located in downtown Pittsburgh – the AHN Medical Respite Program first addresses the patients’ primary needs for safe temporary housing and nutrition.

Healthcare workers from AHN’s Center for Inclusion Health and Healthcare@Home program then provide follow-up medical care and service coordination in a compassionate, home-like environment. Through this model, the program helps patients achieve better health and social stability while lowering their risk of costly re-hospitalizations.

“This unique partnership between AHN, Wood Street Commons, and Bethlehem Haven is helping us close gaps in the health care continuum for a highly vulnerable subset of patients,” said Stuart Fisk, CRNP, MSN, Director, AHN Center for Inclusion Health. “We are working one-on-one with patients to ensure that their health continues to improve after they leave the hospital.”

AHN caregivers deliver various levels of post-acute care for patients in the Medical Respite Program, including IV antibiotics, dressing changes and wound care, treatment for substance use disorders, physical therapy, and coordination of follow-up medical care. Transportation assistance for appointments is also provided, and patients who need a primary care physician are able to establish a relationship with one.

Importantly, staffs at Bethlehem Haven and Community Human Services also work directly with patients to ensure that their longer-term housing, nutrition, and behavioral health needs are met. 

More than 50 patients have benefited from the Medical Respite Program since its inception last year. One patient, who discovered that he had blood cancer while incarcerated, called the assistance life-saving.

“I have no family or social supports in the Pittsburgh area. If it wasn’t for the Inclusion Health Team offering me a respite bed at Wood Street, I would have been on the streets dying.” he said. 

Through the Medical Respite Program, the patient was able to receive chemotherapy and was connected with a primary care physician in the Internal Medicine Clinic at Allegheny General Hospital. He also was assisted in obtaining health insurance, disability, and permanent housing benefits.