Program gives homeless men
after-care away from hospital
Everett Gospel Mission working with Providence
Jim Scolman photo
Tyler Wheaton, center, who was the first patient client at the Everett Gospel Mission’s new Mens Respite Care Facility, shares a laugh on Dec. 18 with Mission CEO Sylvia Anderson, left, and Program Manager Todd Mitchell.
EVERETT — It’s a place where homeless men can mend from serious medical issues.
Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and the Everett Gospel Mission men’s shelter have recently partnered to launch a 12-bed, acute respite care program that helps provide living quarters for men experiencing homelessness to receive necessary ongoing medical attention in a home health care setting.
It is the first of its type offered specifically for men in Snohomish County. The patients admitted require nurses or caregivers to provide services such as administering antibiotics intravenously or changing the dressings on their wounds.
“Think of our acute respite (care) as if you were sent home and you had a nurse visit you every day,” said Sylvia Anderson, CEO of the gospel mission. “This is your home when you don’t have one.”
Anderson said this is essentially an expansion of previous efforts with Providence that had established seven beds for acute respite care at her organization’s shelter for women. The two entities have also partnered together on basic respite care at the gospel mission’s men’s and women’s shelters for people who may be dealing with sicknesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis that require proper rest and care, but not a medical professional to come check on them throughout the week.
The gospel mission held a fundraiser and recently completed the nearly $600,000, three-month-long, renovation project that aadded 12 new single beds and an exam room in the upstairs portion of its building located at 3711 Smith Ave. Anderson said the vision was to provide a calm environment that is conducive to healing, while also avoiding the use of bunkbeds, which would require people with already marginalized health climb small ladders.
The new partnership should also help Providence Regional Medical Center Everett free up hospital beds by partially alleviating the issue of what it considers long- length-of-stay patients.
Kim Williams, the CEO of Providence Health & Services, said these are usually individuals who either lack permanent housing or may have behavioral issues, typically related to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and are no longer able to live independently. The patients would otherwise be discharged to a home care setting and have not been deemed healthy enough for outpatient services.
She said the medical center is currently providing daily care for 65 to 80 such patients who don’t require hospitalization. Williams estimated that by using a “low number” of 60 patients per day, these stays equate to nearly 22,000 extra patient days yearly, which then limits the number of beds available for other people who do need a medical admission.
Casey Calamusa, the spokesman for Providence Health & Services, said the company spends approximately $10 million each year on unreimbursed care for long-length-of-stay patients. He said this also helps contribute to higher health care costs for everybody and as such is a community issue.
Providence made a $200,000 contribution last month to the gospel mission to help with operating costs. The gift is in addition to regularly providing nurse practitioners and social worker visits on-site, through the company’s separate medical group and home care service entities. The goal is to help with more than physical health and, if the patient is willing, assist in their transition out of homelessness.
The new program was the result of several years of discussions between the two organizations about how they could better serve the community.
Williams said she appreciates that after completing medical care, the patients are then able to join any of the mission’s other programs that can help them with resources such as finding permanent housing, jobs, or treatment if they have a substance-use disorder. “It’s a win-win for the patients. They’re out of the hospital and have an opportunity for entrance into a program that can be helpful to them for their long-term future,” she said.
Williams said that both organizations have made their best efforts to learn from comparable programs. A Providence hospital in Spokane has a similar arrangement with a community partner and she’s also familiar with an acute respite care program in Seattle.
Williams said that in addition to the acute respite program at the gospel mission, Providence is also working with Bethany of the Northwest on interim solutions in a more appropriate setting for any long-length-of-stay patients with behavioral issues due to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The nonprofit organization provides long-term care and skilled nursing services at its three facilities in Everett.
The Everett Gospel Mission’s first patient in the new collaborative program is grateful it exists.
Tyler Wheaton, 41, of Everett said that he’s been homeless for the last two years and was most recently living in a friend’s car. “It’s hard asking for help, your pride — or whatever it is you want to call it — gets in the way.”
Wheaton said that he worked various construction jobs most of his life but is currently on disability and had also been in and out of the hospital multiple times in the last six months because of acute kidney failure and complications with diabetes. He said that his living situation wasn’t a good setting in which to get healthy, and so his issues continued on longer than they probably should have if he had access to proper care in a place he could rest while regaining his strength.
“Sleeping in a car, an encampment or in a tent, that’s not recovering, just sustaining and like slowly deteriorating until then I’m right back in the hospital when it starts getting worse,” Wheaton said. He said his health issues were mind-consuming and this fall he found himself in a scenario that he considers to be life or death.
During his latest two-week stay at the hospital, Wheaton heard from staff members about a new option: A program with a location where he could go to heal and rest.
After three weeks of recuperating in the gospel mission’s new acute respite care area, Wheaton has found new hope.
“I literally think I would be dead if I did not have this place here to help me and to recuperate back to healthy,” he said. “Not just that but opportunities to get my life back together, help me establish back into the workforce, and I really want to get back into school.”
Wheaton was soon going to be transferred into their standard living quarters for residents.
He’s excited about now having a safe, warm place to stay and pursuing new opportunities in the future.
“How can you repay somebody who saves your life?” he asked. “Well you can do these little things and you can be an example and pass it on, you can help the next person.”
To donate: To contribute to this program, write a check to “Neighbors Care” at the Everett Gospel Mission, P.O. Box 423, Everett, WA 98203 or visit www.egmission.org
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