Jefferson Healthcare hospital is working with Olympic Community Action Programs and Discovery Behavioral Healthcare to help fund a low-income housing program in Port Townsend as part of a pilot project between the three organizations.
The one-year agreement is aimed at helping to subsidize a six-unit low-income housing project.
Dunia Faulx, Jefferson Healthcare director of care transformation and population health, said the facility currently has six apartments with the potential to house as many as 12 people.
Faulx said it currently houses highly vulnerable patients.
The total project cost is $57,000, with Jefferson Healthcare contributing $44,000.
Health care officials said housing, along with food security and employment, are known as social determinants of health and are important contributors to ensure people become and stay healthy.
“This one-year pilot will support an existing low-income housing facility, owned by OlyCAP, and will feature coordinated social, behavioral and medical services,” Faulx said.
OlyCAP is the largest social service agency on the Olympic Peninsula. Discovery Behavioral Healthcare provides mental health services in Jefferson County. Jefferson Healthcare is the largest health care provider in the county.
In 2017, the hospital received a $5,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Health through a population-health flex fund to explore the role of hospitals in housing. Then it received an $8,000 grant from the state to start a pilot program.
The OlyCAP low-income unit has housed six people for more than five years with the ongoing assistance and support of OlyCAP and Discovery Behavioral Healthcare.
The low-income unit has enabled its residents to prepare to transition into permanent housing, officials said.
The current residents have received Section 8 vouchers, which are helping them secure new low-income housing as it becomes available.
OlyCAP remains responsible for owning and operating the housing complex, Faulx said.
The location is not being disclosed to ensure the safety and privacy of the individuals who live there.
Federal and state funding for the property was cut at the end of 2017, which is why Jefferson Healthcare was invited to participate with the other two organizations to contribute financial support on an interim basis.
“We are committed to the health of our community and understand that safe and stable housing are critical components of health,” Jefferson Healthcare CEO Mike Glenn stated in a press release. “Jefferson Healthcare has committed to funding housing costs for 2018, allowing OlyCAP to support vulnerable citizens and maintain access to low-income housing in Jefferson County that we believe will lower overall health care utilization and costs.”
Faulx said there are significant financial implications in the health care system associated with providing stable and safe housing to people who use medical services.
Similar housing programs have seen reductions in the number of emergency department visits, inpatient stays and readmissions, increased delivery of mental health and social health services for vulnerable patients, and an increased use of preventive care, according to Faulx.
“As hospital systems move to value-based care models, the savings are expected to be significant and will be main drivers of engagement in social determinants of health interventions,” Faulx said.
The pilot project aligns with each organization’s mission and commitment to creating a healthier community.