Waiting area at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Waiting area at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
EUGENE — Two new programs designed to help homeless patients are part of a pilot project involving Eugene/Springfield-based nonprofit ShelterCare and PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center. The projects focus on patients ready to be released from the hospital, but who require more help and housing.  

“For many uninsured or under-insured people who are homeless, the emergency room is their primary care provider,” said Dan Reece, a PeaceHealth program manager. “For these individuals, struggling to nurse major medical issues — such as recovery from surgery, a broken limb or an open wound — can lead to additional complications, expensive readmission and ultimately even prove life-threatening.”

ShelterCare’s 30-Day Homeless Medical Respite Program and the six-month Extended Medical Respite Program offer stable housing, the support of a community health worker and long-term planning.

The programs are projected to produce net health care cost savings of more than 34 percent per year by reducing hospital lengths of stay, readmissions and Emergency Department visits. The 30-day respite program, launched in October 2013, has already helped 13 people.

“A community health worker provides medical care coordination to ensure that participants take the necessary steps to recover, such as continuing with prescribed medications, attending follow-up appointments and communicating with their medical providers,” said Sarah  Chapman, ShelterCare’s program manager for the Family Housing Program. “Simultaneously, a ShelterCare case manager provides in-house support to connect participants with resources to help them regain stability — such as permanent housing, financial literacy education, rental etiquette training, employment opportunities and transportation options.”

In a similar pilot program in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., 86 percent of participants were discharged from the program into stable housing.