| February 26, 2019

Illinois Hospital is Treating Homelessness as a Medical Condition

Chronic homelessness is one of society’s most prevalent social issues. Many of the homeless visitors who come to emergency rooms having such diseases as diabetes, heart failure, mental illnesses, substance abuses, kidney diseases, and others.

The University of Illinois Hospitals, located in Chicago Illinois,has started a program, called Better Health Through Housing, in order to reduce homelessness by providing permanent housing for homeless patients.

The program is currently in partnership with the Center for Housing and Health and helps to treat chronic homelessness as a medical condition. With a focus on providing better health through housing, this program helps the ongoing problem that is going on in emergency rooms across the country.

Another initiative, Chicago Street Medicine is bringing healthcare services for the homeless in Illinois. This initiative is brought by a group of students at the University of Illinois at Chicago and was launched last fall. It highlights the severity of the conditions in which homeless people live. For instance, for many drug addicts, street medicine (known as “reality-based medicine”) is one of the only ways for them to get healthcare. The problem is rising, and the University of Illinois Hospitals hopes to lower it with this new program.

HealthCare Weekly Insight

Many homeless people go to hospitals to seek shelter or come for treatment of legitimate health issues. This problem is growing in Illinois. Placing these patients in permanent housing is becoming one of the solutions. To improve this problem, that affects the economy of Chicago, the University of Illinois Hospitals in Chicago has partnered with Center for Housing and Health, a non-profit organization, to launch the program.

The Better Health Through Housing program helps treat chronic homelessness as a health issue by providing supportive housing for participants. It also helps to reduce health care costs and prevents further illnesses that can be acquired by the homeless.

According to Dr. Avjt Ghosh who is the CEO of UI Health Hospitals and Clinics says, “A stable environment is the first step toward establishing long-term health. Better Health Through Housing is taking proven steps to positively impact the health and lives of Chicago’s most vulnerable individuals”.

Key Highlights of the Program

The Better Health Through Housing Program program aims to reduce the costs of healthcare services and provides stability for chronically homeless people. This effort works by moving the homeless directly from hospital emergency rooms into supportive housing where they have access to intensive case management systems. According to UI Health, the UI Health Hospital and Clinics have committed $250,000 to help launch the initiative. Permanent housing for homeless patients helps reduce the number of emergency room visits and limits the visits related to chronic conditions.

The partnership with UI Health will provide the homeless with access to stable housing that has comprehensive care and education services.

In the first  year, the program is funded by a gift account through philanthropic dollars. Currently, the program is attracting a high number of insurance companies that seek to make use of the accompanying data.

Rise in Illinois Youth Homelessness

There is an increase in the number of youth with no access to safe homes, healthcare, and other necessities in Illinois. A number of non-profit organizations in Chicago are trying to help these youth, including homeless LGBTQ youth to navigate the issues that are linked with homelessness. These initiatives also help Chicago homeless LGBTQ youth who are in need of more mental health services.

These issues can range from anxiety to depression, as well as other physical health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, risk for cancers etc. If these youth have access to mental health services and affordable housing, it ultimately helps the economy because it increases their chances of entering the workforce. Such assistance also helps prevent drug addictions and violent outrages that are often seen in homeless communities.

“Being homeless is hard on the body … and if you have a chronic medical condition, it’s only going to exacerbate it… we also found some individuals that were just coming for what we call ‘secondary gain,’ and their health care costs plummeted because they had no reason to seek out shelter in emergency departments any longer.” says Stephen Brown who is the director of preventive emergency medicine at the University of Illinois Hospital.

The Bottom Line

This program could help lower the number of homeless individuals who seek hospital emergency rooms as shelters. It works by moving them from these emergency rooms into stable supportive houses. Moving them to permanent housing helps improve the health of the individuals and promotes overall wellbeing since they are no longer out on the street.

The initiative of the program is to combine healthcare, housing, and human services to give the homeless people a sense of home, self-determination, and independence. As a result, it promotes long-term health, and reduces overall healthcare costs.

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