Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Health and Dignity for the Homeless

Nancy Hu, a Social Worker with California Hospital Medical Center, Dignity Health, would like to see lower readmission rates, reinfections and fewer visits to the emergency department for her patients. Nancy works with patients who are about to be discharged from the hospital and the majority of her caseload is individuals who are without a home.

“I see myself as someone who advocates for my patients and collaborates with the nurses, doctors and case managers to work towards a safe discharge,” shared Nancy, “The challenge is that when someone is not able to heal in a clean and safe environment, it puts the person at a much greater risk of another hospitalization and further exacerbating their illness, all of which can be prevented.”

Since 2015, National Health Foundation’s Pathways Recuperative Care has become one avenue for safe discharge of homeless patients from partner hospitals. Pathways offers temporary housing with medical oversight to individuals who are without a home. The advantage for patients is that they can heal safely and are given the support needed to adhere to follow-up care schedules. For partnering hospitals the advantage is peace of mind, “The hospital feels reassured that the patients are able to go somewhere clean and safe to heal while getting assistance with follow-up appointments and housing,” says Nancy.

Not every homeless patient opts for accepting Recuperative Care and not all are a fit. As a social worker, Nancy assesses each patient who is homeless to see if they are appropriate for recuperative care, if they are motivated to get housing, and those who wish to recover from their medical condition. Not all homeless patients want to be housed, “Personally, it makes me sad because it doesn’t have to be that way. But I also know that we all have rights to make choices that we feel is best for ourselves and to choose to take help when it is offered.”

On any given day, Nancy is balancing and prioritizing between a victim of crime, someone who is homeless and being discharged while it is cold and raining outside, and another who is dealing with a life changing/altering diagnosis. We at National Health Foundation’s Pathways Recuperative Care are grateful to Nancy and Social Workers everywhere who are providing essential care to patients at their most vulnerable; upon discharge from the hospital.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Celebrating #SocialWorkMonth: Care and Compassion in the Face of Homelessness

Frank healing at NHF's Pathway Recuperative Care center.
Ron Jacobs, LCSW, Social Work Services at White MemorialMedical Center (WMMC) in Los Angeles, works closely with patients as they prepare for discharge from the hospital. Nearly every day Ron is faced with the challenge of discharging a patient who does not have a home to return to. 

“I make sure that those I serve are listened to and heard. I motivate individuals to enhance their strengths and abilities and help restore their sense of dignity while avoiding stigmatizing anyone as homeless,” says Ron of his role, “and I also realize that along with empathy, there must be action, resources and referrals.

March is #SocialWorkMonth and National Health Foundation(NHF) is celebrating the invaluable work that social workers do in the community, in particular the work of those who coordinate the discharge and referral of patients who are homeless.

 Until 2015, patients in Los Angeles County who were without a home and were discharged from the hospital faced completing their healing on the street. For many, a lack of follow-up care meant a certain return to the hospital. For social workers like Ron, it meant forming a connection with an individual upon discharge only to see them back in the hospital. “Knowing that there is a resource that is an alternative to the streets is a wonderful advantage we can now offer these individuals,” shared Ron, “Pathway Recuperative Care provides the opportunity for transitional healing, emotional support, resources and concrete solutions to enable our patients to reconnect with their community.”

Shakoya Green, MA, MSW, National Health Foundation’s Recuperative Care Program Director had this to say about Ron, “We simply cannot do what we do without Social Workers like Ron who go above and beyond their ‘job’ to really connect with their patients on a deeper level. Ron sees the whole person and addresses their needs from a place of love. We have been able to work closely together to achieve some incredible outcomes for our patients.”

Frank was discharged from WMMC last fall after several complex procedures. Ron ensured a smooth referral to Pathway Recuperative Care and helped to secure every possible form of care to ensure Frank recovered from his physical issues. Frank was able to benefit from the full spectrum of services that the partnership provided and has since fully healed physically and has been provided with a stable housing solution. “Frank’s case exemplifies what is possible when there is a ‘champion’ for the homeless who sees beyond the sometimes harsh exterior and works compassionately and diligently to ensure success,” added Shakoya.

Ron’s motto is a moving one, “I strive to meet each person as he/she is and I begin where the person is at in their journey in life. I try to remember that we are all ‘poor’ in one way or another and we all need some degree of healing at some time in our lives. There is no ‘healer and would be healed’. When we help someone in need, we are all better off. We all share a common humanity.”

All of us at Pathway Recuperative Care and National Health Foundation salute you, Ron, and all Social Workers.