Affordable Housing, Community Development, Homelessness, Supportive Housing

IForum Highlights Successful Health Care and Housing Collaborations


More than 130 gathered at the Lyceum on May 21 for an IForum focused on the importance of creating connections among health care and housing services to assist populations struggling with homelessness. The keynote speaker, Dr. Jim O’Connell, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, energized the audience with his presentation at the Partnership’s Tuesday IForum: “Health Care, Housing & Homelessness: Target. Connect. Save.”

If you cannot view the slideshow, click here.

Dr. O’Connell, whose team offers health care to people who are “rough-sleeping” in Boston, or sleeping unsheltered, emphasized the need for personal connection with clients, starting early in his career when a nurse directed him to wash the feet of the people who are homeless. That first step led to an effort to build trust and relationships that allowed O’Connell to reach the most medically compromised – including the 15-year old boy who couldn’t read, the Vietnam veteran whose partner was living with AIDS, and the older client who believed he was a judge.

By extending health care, housing, and supportive services to people who are homeless, O’Connell said public health care costs are greatly reduced – a sentiment echoed by the panel that followed, which included Jill Benson, of Community Health Resources; Dr. Michael Saxe, chair of  Middlesex Hospital’s department of emergency medicine; Terri DePietro, director of Middlesex Hospital’s outpatient behavioral health; and Kevin Irwin, of Corporation for Supportive Housing.

By focusing on high-use patients, Saxe said Middlesex Hospital has decreased emergency department and other medical costs by as much as 60 percent in the last six months. And at least seven of those patients are in housing – which has made all the difference for their care, DiPietro said.

Irwin talked about opportunities for serving people who are homeless, including, among other initiatives:

  • Combining behavioral health, medical and community services and supports with housing assistance in patient-centered care plans
  • Improving care transitions for Medicaid beneficiaries from hospital to community and post-acute care settings
  • Developing medical respite programs for people who are homeless
  • Tracking of housing status by the health care system
  • Using data to target those with the highest need and use of costly crisis services
  • Promoting value over volume in patient care
  • Making appropriate investments in safe and affordable housing options as part of health care reform and long term care rebalancing efforts for vulnerable populaitons

The 2013 IForum series concludes on June 19 with “Creating Pathways to Economic Security for Those Who Are Homeless.”

Materials from May 21 IForum:

Relevant Materials/ Links:

Watch the IForum on CT-N.



Filter News By