Updated on: June 22, 2012

Prioritization an Essential Component of Providing Healthcare for the Homeless

Original story posted on: July 19, 2011

mspivey100EDITOR'S NOTE: RACMonitorEnews continues to report on the fate of the homeless in America as it relates to providers needing to have a RAC-safe discharge strategy for those who seek shelter in local hospitals.


The "first come, first served" strategy of providing social aid to America's homeless is an inherently flawed plan that should be abandoned in favor of prioritization - a "difficult, but essential" task, according to the recently released one-year anniversary report of a wide-reaching initiative to address the issue of homelessness on a national scale.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign's goal is to bring together "change agents" from across the country to find homes for 100,000 of the most vulnerable and long-term homeless American individuals and families by July 2013. The campaign's mission statement is to "fundamentally alter our response to chronic homelessness by giving communities concrete tools" and establishing interconnectivity among aid services "so no one has to innovate alone." The movement currently has 86 partner communities in more than 25 states.


The campaign's anniversary report included a revealing vulnerability index survey distributed to nearly 23,000 homeless people, capturing data on health status, institutional history, length of homelessness, pattern of shelter use and previous housing situations of those surveyed. Based on leading medical research, the survey allows communities to identify the homeless people who are most at risk of dying on the streets and prioritize them for housing and service resources.


Of those surveyed, 8,236, nearly 40 percent, met at least one "high-risk" criterion.


The average person surveyed had been homeless for 4.75 years, with an extra year on average for those with vulnerability factors. More than 12,000 of those surveyed, nearly two-thirds of respondents, had spent time in jail while 10,793 (more than 57 percent) struggled with some form of substance abuse. Of those 10,793, more than 6,000 suffered from a combination of substance abuse and mental illness.


The survey also produced data illuminating some of the root causes for the high costs of providing care for the nation's homeless, who reportedly number around 3 million at any given time. Of that number, an estimated 150,000 are classified as "chronically homeless," according to a 2006 report in Forbes, which reported that nearly $11 billion in public funding annually is dedicated to that group. If all of those people were provided permanent housing, the publication estimated that this expense would dip to under $8 billion.


Nearly 3,700 survey participants, approximately 20 percent of all respondents, said they had been hospitalized or visited an ER three or more times during the previous year (more than 2,200, or about 12 percent, said they had done so during the last three months alone). Additionally, 5,271 respondents (more than 28 percent) had been the victims of a violent attack since becoming homeless, while 7,304 (nearly 39 percent) were uninsured.


Respondents also reported a number of chronic medical conditions such as asthma (2,858 respondents), heart disease (2,399), hepatitis C (1,909), diabetes (1,818) or liver disease (1,362). At least three percent of respondents also suffer from HIV/AIDS, kidney disease or cancer.


For more information about the 100,000 Homes Campaign, go online to 100khomes.org.


Mark Spivey is a correspondent for the RACmonitor.com and ICD10monitor.com websites. He can be reached at mcspivey@hotmail.com.


To comment on this article please go to editor@racmonitor.com


Improper Use of Discharge Status Codes Identified by IRF Audits

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