The Poverello Center, located in Missoula, Montana, is an emergency facility providing short-term emergency shelter, food, and supportive services to community members living in poverty. The facility provides a drug-free, caring, and tolerant environment that encourages positive change. In 2014, in collaboration with Providence St. Patrick Hospital, the Poverello Center launched an expanded medical respite program to provide patients with a short-term place to rest and recover after discharge from the hospital. In 2018, Providence St. Patrick Hospital provided the Center with $70,000 in Community Benefit support.
“For many years medical respite at the Poverello Center consisted of daytime bed rest in a Poverello group dormitory. This was rarely adequate for recovery. The Poverello Center and St. Patrick Hospital knew that we shared a small number of patients who were repeatedly hospitalized or visiting the Emergency Department. Though not a large population, these folks were costing our community a large sum in emergency response, provider time and other healthcare expenses,” says Laura Folkwein, the Poverello Center’s Development Associate. “When we expanded services at the Poverello Center, we started to bridge the gap that existed between acute care and recovery. And, by providing additional social services we are also able to help patients help themselves and improve their lives."
Mary was referred to a Poverello medical respite bed by her doctor to recover after a cardiovascular procedure. Mary is about 60 years old, has a sweet smile, cares about others, and loves NFL football. Since 2010, Mary had been trying to secure Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, but her application had been denied. Overwhelmed and discouraged by these denials, Mary had lost hope until, while at the Poverello Center, a the medical respite care coordinator helped Mary obtain the final documents needed for her SSDI application to be approved. Mary used her first payment from SSDI to purchase a plane ticket back home to be closer to family until she can get a place of her own.
“The gap we are able to fill with Poverello Medical respite not only saves our community money, but it also starts to address some of the critical needs identified in our Community Health Needs Assessment around homelessness, mental and behavioral health and access to medical care,” stated Merry Hutton, Regional Director for Community Health Investment, PSJH Washington-Montana Region.
Providence St. Patrick Hospital refers three to four patients each month to medical respite beds at the Poverello Center. In 2018, 53 patients were served in the medical respite program. As the program has grown, each medical respite stay avoids approximately 10 hospital inpatient days. This amounts to an estimated $874,500 in saved costs in a year.
Additional Poverello services include nutritious meals to anyone in need, sack lunches, and other critical support including toiletries, bathrooms, and shower facilities, emergency clothing and laundry services, mail, phone, and messaging services, scheduled educational classes and a computer lab, as well as 12 step meetings and other addiction services. Missoula’s federally-qualified health center, Partnership Health Center, has a satellite medical clinic housed in the Poverello Center where medical respite patients can receive outpatient follow-up care.
The Poverello Center is also supported generously by volunteers in the community who believe in the cause. “We simply could not operate without community support. Volunteers provide nearly 9,000 hours of service every year, a value of $200,000,” said Folkwein.