Imagine if you experienced an accident or serious illness or were admitted to the hospital and you didn’t have a home to return to or a bed to rest in. Unfortunately, this is what happens to many vulnerable people in our community; too many people experiencing homelessness get discharged from the hospital, still weak and sick, and their only option is to return to the street or a shelter where recovery is difficult, if not impossible.
Greater Portland Health (GPH), Preble Street, and Maine Medical Center (MMC) have partnered to create Maine’s first recuperative care program to address this unmet need in our community. This innovative and cutting-edge program is hosted in GPH’s Federally Qualified Health Center in Portland and offers patients 24/7 recuperative care and case management.
Recuperative care (also known as medical respite care) services include short-term medical care and case management provided to individuals recovering from an acute illness or injury that generally does not necessitate hospitalization but would be exacerbated by their living conditions (e.g., street, shelter, or other unsuitable places). Numerous studies have found that recuperative care programs reduce hospital readmission, days in the hospital, and visits to the ER, reduce overall medical costs, and improve health outcomes.
At this new program, up to 15 patients at a time can access care for ongoing medical needs, meals, and a place to sleep for up to six weeks. Patients benefit from:
- Medical care: Primary care, wound care, and infectious disease treatment
- Behavioral health: Psychiatry, therapy services, and substance use disorder treatment
- Social services: Medical case management as well as screening for addressing social determinants of health including housing, food access, and transportation
This new program is already making a big difference in many people’s lives and bridging a critical gap in services for people experiencing homelessness. Preble Street staff provide 24/7 trauma-informed case management for these patients. In its first six months, 35 individuals have received care, 28 people were connected to MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), and 12 individuals have been connected to housing!
“For more than 20 years, Preble Street and other providers have been advocating for a safe and healing place for people who are unhoused,” says Brittney La Shier, Assistant Director, Recuperative Care Program. “With medical staff in the building 24/7, caseworkers connecting and bringing patients to outside medical appointments, and Preble Street staff managing the residential space and providing short-term case work, this wraparound program is as comprehensive as we could hope. Clients report never having felt so safe and supported while unhoused.”
(Pictured: Recuperative Care staff from Preble Street and GPH at the 1 year anniversary celebration of the program) In the days before Maine’s first recuperative care program (RCP) opened last September, the walls of the light-filled space were bare. One year later the walls are full of colorful photos and art, most created by patients
Imagine if you experienced an accident or serious illness or were admitted to the hospital and you didn’t have a home to return to or a bed to rest in. Unfortunately, this is what happens to many vulnerable people in our community; too many people experiencing homelessness get discharged from the hospital, still weak and
The chalk writing on the doors near the Bayside Trail says, “I’m so ignorant to think we’d make it out of this thing TOGETHER…or alive.” The hearts surrounding the message give hope, but the ‘or alive’ just scratches the surface of the despair we all feel knowing that there is no ready, short-term solution for