Los Angeles County is giving more homeless patients a safe place to heal, and placing them on a path to housing.
Thanks to Measure H, the County added 250 beds to its recuperative care network just in the past year, bringing the total to 432 beds distributed across 12 locations in Metro and South Los Angeles, Long Beach, Sylmar and Bell. This allows homeless patients to avoid going back out on the streets, where they are at far greater risk of becoming ill or injured all over again
Jennifer Campbell said she was grateful to receive treatment at the 100-bed Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center (MLK RCC) in Willowbrook. “They brought me to a room, and I had my own bed, and I had my own space,” she said. “I was indeed grateful – I was just happy to be alive.”
The MLK RCC, part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, opened in January 2016 and takes in about 600 patients a year. “The MLK RCC provides homeless patients with a place to heal and a path to recovery,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “In addition to temporary housing, they receive round-the-clock care, including nursing, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatments, life skills classes, and other services to help them achieve stability and transition into permanent supportive housing.”
A variety of nonprofit partners operate the County’s 12 recuperative care centers, but the Department of Health Services’ Housing for Health Division oversees the entire network.
A recently released three-year study by the RAND Corporation found Housing for Health initiatives, including recuperative care, saved taxpayers thousands of dollars by reducing hospitalizations and emergency room visits.
“Our hospitals are often hamstrung with no place to discharge homeless patients, necessitating that we hold up a bed for days when other patients truly need them,” County Health Agency director, Dr. Mitch Katz, said. “Recuperative care improves outcomes, reduces emergency room utilization, and creates health system savings that are more than offset by the costs of adding recuperative beds.”
The County’s recuperative care network provides short-term transitional care for homeless patients discharged by County-run and private hospitals, as well as those exiting custody facilities with complex health and behavioral health conditions. There, health practitioners can provide services like dressing changes and wound care for patients who no longer require hospitalization, but whose condition could worsen if they were to return to the street. They typically provide such ‘respite’ care over four to 10 weeks on average, depending on the patients’ needs.
While the patients are recovering, social workers will link them to transitional ‘bridge’ or permanent housing with wraparound supportive medical, substance abuse and behavioral health services that can help them remain housed and medically managed.
Over the next 10 years, Measure H will provide over $3 billion that will be dedicated to homeless programs such as wraparound supportive services for those living in independent housing, rental subsidies, street engagement teams, case management and homeless prevention efforts. Recuperative care beds and services are funded through several sources, including Measure H, which has funded the addition of 250 new recuperative care beds this year alone.
The County’s Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell said recuperative care is a key area for allocation of Measure H funds because of this “housing-first model” can result in long-term social services savings. A ¼-cent sales tax approved by voters in March, Measure H is intended to help an estimated 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness over the next five years, and to prevent 30,000 more from becoming homeless.
the Sick, Injured and Homeless