By Andre Vasher

Groundcover contributor

Re-opening after gaining traction in late 2019, the Recuperative Care program run by the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County returns in full force. The Recuperative Care program first opened at the Robert J. Delonis Center to provide immediate shelter and part-time nursing support to homeless persons discharged from hospitals but who also need follow up care, education and further recovery. Currently, program participants reside in rooms in an Ann Arbor hotel, helping recovering patients limit their exposure to COVID-19.

The Recuperative Care program aims to reduce hospital stays, provide patient education and healing, and find permanent housing for each participant. Due to the COVID-19 crisis response, the Shelter Association closed the Recuperative Care program in March 2020, but now it’s back and picking up steam. 

Homeless, medically fragile people often have nowhere to go once discharged from the hospital, and sometimes a bed at the Delonis Center may not be available. They may also need specialized care that other discharged patients often receive in a rehab center or through family support structures. Patients experiencing homelessness are often discharged from the hospital onto the streets. Alone, with no place to heal, infection, injury and worsening health can lead to expensive hospital readmissions and dash hope of finding long term housing. 

Through the Recuperative Care program, homeless clients are currently able to stay at a local Ann Arbor hotel due to a federal grant from the CDC. Not only will recovering patients have shelter, but they will also receive nursing assistance, meals and support provided by a combination of the Shelter Association and Packard Health Clinic.

Does the Recuperative Care program work? A recent client participating in this program has learned to deal with his kidney disease, found an apartment and recently secured a job. He relates, “I was homeless for 20 years and became gravely ill. A hospital social worker connected me to the folks at the Recuperative Care program. They provided a room in a hotel, regular meals, advice on my treatment and helped me find a place to live. They were all great people to work with.”

 The healthcare support provided by Packard Health Clinic provides a huge boost to the success of this program. As Recuperative Care Crisis Coordinator Shannon Gilroy points out, “Packard Health Clinic supplies a nurse who comes onsite to the hotel to visit our clients. They’re an amazing partner to work with.”

The average cost of an overnight hospital stay is $3,100 while one night in recuperative care is $150. This program breaks the readmission cycle. By being discharged to a Medical Recuperative Care program, a client receives shelter, time to recover, medical supervision, case management and a bridge to permanent housing. Housed and healed, clients live longer, happier lives.

Benefits of the Recuperative Care program include: safe, undisrupted recovery time for better health outcomes, increased access to primary care and other services makes care manageable and sustainable, cost effective treatment reduces strain on emergency medical services and integrated case management that addresses underlying barriers and creates the bridge to housing for clients.

The Washtenaw County program is  one of nine national Recuperative Care programs that received funding from a $1.6 million CDC Foundation grant. In partnership with the National Institute for Medical Respite Care, the CDC Foundation funding enables programs to mitigate barriers to care resulting from inadequate facilities or physical space; insufficient staffing and personnel; and insufficient medical equipment. 

Clients often get referred to the Shelter’s  Recuperative Care program by a social worker or discharge planner at University of Michigan or Saint Joseph Mercy hospitals. Word of mouth is also helping to expand the reach of this important service.

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