Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and Alaska Native Medical Center teamed up with Catholic Social Services to lend a hand to patients without homes, and Langhorne, Pa.-based St. Mary Medical Center uses a multifaceted approach to embed access to healthy, fresh food in its community.

Helping the homeless recover and find housing

Recognizing that health problems can be a path to homelessness and can extend homelessness, three of Alaska’s largest hospitals collaborated to open Anchorage’s first medical respite unit and clinic for the homeless. The Brother Francis Shelter Medical Respite Program, which is designed to facilitate recuperation, accommodates 10 patients from three major hospitals’ inpatient beds or emergency departments and is staffed with a case manager and program manager. Patients have access to three meals daily, semi-private bedrooms and case management services to support their healing and later obtain housing.

Through a partnership with Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and Alaska Native Medical Center, Catholic Social Services opened the facility for recently discharged homeless residents in hopes of accelerating their recoveries, typically from wounds, fractures, surgeries and various other injuries. 

Seventy-three percent of the clinic’s patients did not return to homelessness after receiving services, and 50 percent of those who exited the program were discharged to permanent housing. Within a six-year period, the program garnered 64 referrals and accepted 44 patients, 32 of whom received medical services. 

Learn more about the program here.

Preventing chronic illness with access to fresh food

Recognizing that easy access to fruits and vegetables contribute to good health, Langhorne, Pa.-based St. Mary Medical Center launched the St. Mary Farm to Families program to address its region's unmet need for access to fresh foods. The program has made fresh, affordable food available to more than 1,000 families and has in turn benefitted their overall health, the organization says.

St. Mary later launched Fresh Connect, which brings fresh food from reliable, sustainable and healthy food sources directly to local, food insecure communities via localized deliveries and in an open-air mobile market that promote community cohesiveness and volunteerism. For example, St. Mary provides recipe and food storage tips based on the produce being distributed that day. So far, hundreds of food-insecure individuals have participated, and they are willing to make and try new recipes the longer they participate, the organization said. In addition, the social connectivity between staff and participants has reduced the isolation of some of the senior participants.

Learn more about the program here.