Facing Rising Public Expense What Policy Solutions Do We Have?
The chronically homeless in New Jersey often turn to hospital emergency rooms for their medical care – some are simply looking for a safe, warm and dry place while others repeatedly seek treatment for serious medical conditions.
A May 25, 2012 article in The Record, “More Homeless in NJ Using Hospitals for Shelter and Food” profiles service providers, homeless individuals and the medial center emergency departments that serve them – often over and over again. While not a new story, it reveals the serious drain on he system caused by high frequency users of the emergency healthcare system.
Says Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck spokeswoman Jacqueline Kates:
“We don’t turn away any sick people whatever their circumstance is but the hospital is not the solution for the homeless problem.”
Hospitals in New Jersey spend a total of $2.2 billion caring for homeless and other poor individuals who cannot afford their own treatment. And as just one local example of charity care expenses, at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center:
In January and February of 2012, the hospital saw a 66% increase over January and February of 2011;
There was an almost 15% increase between 2010 and 2011; and
In 2011, the hospital was reimbursed only $1.4 million from the state’s charity-care fund for the nearly $15 million it provided.
But there are potential solutions to this problem. Hospitals are becoming more thorough in ensuring that they are not discharging individuals back into homelessness. And Monarch Housing Associates is working with several communities in the state in exploring the development of programs targeted towards the high frequency user population. We will provide updates on our joint efforts through our website.