Respite Care Programrespite care

Homeless individuals experience high rates of physical and mental illness, increased mortality and frequent hospitalizations. They also tend to have multiple serious health needs that require a higher level of care. Increasingly, homeless people who are discharged from hospitals don’t have a place to recuperate. They are not sick enough to justify continuing inpatient care but are not well enough to return to the streets.

Respite care provides homeless individuals with housing and services, allowing for a more complete recovery. Traditionally, hospitals have discharged homeless patients only to have them return to the emergency room because they may not have access to adequate supportive services after they are medically cleared to leave the hospital. This dynamic is burdensome for homeless patients and increases the costs for their care. Respite care facilities provide around-the-clock room and board to homeless patients discharged from the hospital, helping them to comply with post-hospital rehabilitation. There are currently 23 medical respite care facilities in California, but none in Kern County. Bakersfield had been home to one such facility operated by Clinica Sierra Vista, but it recently lost its lease and was forced to close. The loss of this space has left a crucial and costly gap in the local health care system for homeless patients.

Dignity Health has made providing support services to homeless patients after they leave the hospital a priority – including partnerships with Mercy Housing to establish family and transitional housing at Madison Place and The Haven. Establishing a respite facility in our community would move us one step closer to creating a true care continuum for homeless patients in need.

Respite care can improve the quality of life for homeless people by giving them extra time to rest and recuperate in a safe environment. Many respite programs also succeed in helping clients access income benefits, treatment for mental health or substance abuse disorders, and even stable housing by the end of their stay. Respite care also prevents recurrent hospitalizations, which can reduce hospital overcrowding.

Ensuring access to quality health care must be a part of our community's response to homelessness. Medical respite care is an integral part of the continuum of care for homeless services in any community. It bridges the gap between acute medical services currently provided in hospitals and homeless shelters that do not have the capacity to provide needed recuperative care.

Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation is leading the fundraising effort to reopen Clinica Sierra Vista’s Medical Respite Care program and facility. Other key community stakeholders have also pledged their support for the program. This is an opportunity for community leaders, hospitals and individuals to rally together and provide a service to the people who need it most.

Click on Donate Now to contribute your support to the Respite Care Program.