EOHHS Announces Expansion of Medical Respite Program

Published on Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Second site, in Woonsocket, will serve people with acute illnesses who are experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness.

CRANSTON, R.I. – The Rhode Island Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS) announced today the expansion of its Medical Respite program, aimed at addressing the needs of Rhode Islanders who are experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness who have acute injuries and illnesses. The new site in Woonsocket – the second location based on community need – will be managed by Thundermist Health Center together with the State and community partners.

“Medical respite care is trauma-informed and focuses on providing care to improve each person’s health by ensuring clients feel valued, cared for, and can focus on planning for their future,” said EOHHS Secretary Richard Charest. “I am thankful to Governor McKee, our state team, and community partners in Woonsocket who stepped up to help us continue building a statewide continuum of housing supports for all.”

Like the Medical Respite program already in place at Hallworth House in Providence, the Woonsocket program will serve community members experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity who are preparing for or recovering from medical procedures, hospitalization, or who need a safe place to heal from an acute illness or injury. For example, an individual experiencing homelessness with a broken leg, or in need of wound care for a burn would be a potential client for this program.

“Medical respite acts as a therapeutic setting where a patient can receive wrap around care to address medical, behavioral, and social needs while in a safe place that promotes healing and positive health outcomes,” said Jennifer Pace, Director of Integrated Management – Community-Based Programs at Thundermist Health Center. “The success of this service has been evident over the first several months of the medical respite pilot in Rhode Island. There have been many major surgeries, procedures, and chronic and acute medical needs addressed at the Hallworth House Respite since February. Thundermist is passioned and motivated to continue this pilot and to grow respite to meet the needs of our communities.”

The program, located in a previously vacant wing of Woonsocket Health and Rehabilitation Centre at 262 Poplar Street, will begin with an initial capacity of eight single occupancy rooms with the ability to serve up to 24 clients in the future.

Referrals will initially only be accepted through Thundermist Health Center and their local partners including Landmark Medical Center and Woonsocket Health and Rehabilitation Centre. However, they will have the potential to expand to other referral sources as the program is evaluated and if scale-up plans are initiated.

“Housing and shelter are foundational elements of health. The quality, affordability, and stability of housing all significantly impact individual and population health outcomes.” said Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH, Interim Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “The HEZ initiative was designed to support communities in creating safer and healthier communities, especially for Rhode Island’s most vulnerable, by bringing together the resources and supports to address community needs, while supporting resident led strategies to improve the social, environmental, and economic conditions like housing that negatively impact the health of Rhode Islanders. RIDOH is excited to partner with Governor McKee, EOHHS, and the Woonsocket Health Equity Zone to expand the Medical Respite program to Woonsocket to ensure safe, stable housing for residents experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness while they recover from acute illness.”

Clients will be engaged with a medical provider, who will oversee client care and recovery. Additional services will be offered on site, including connections to social supports and programs, behavioral healthcare resources, housing navigation support, and medication assisted treatment as needed. Clients will be provided with a single room with 24-hour access to an established bed, three meals per day, and cleaning and laundry service. Each person’s length of stay in the program is dependent on their individual recovery period and treatment plan.

People experiencing homelessness have complex social and health care needs and use hospitals at higher rates and for longer periods of time than their housed counterparts. According to Rhode Island’s Point-in-Time Count, from 2022 to 2023, the population of those who are unsheltered and chronically homeless increased by 15 percent.

“At EOHHS, we are always seeking ways to better leverage federal supports via Medicaid to meet the healthcare needs of our members” said Medicaid Director Kristin Sousa. “As we have seen during our pilot in Providence, medical respite care improves each client’s overall health by providing a safe environment to medically recover, addresses health-related social needs by providing clients with wraparound services, and decreases healthcare spending by preventing recurring illness and emergency room visits.”

Partners for this pilot include:

  • Thundermist Health Center
  • Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS)
  • Woonsocket Health and Rehabilitation Centre
  • Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)
  • Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH)
  • Landmark Medical Center
  • Woonsocket Health Equity Zone

"The Woonsocket HEZ is proud to partner on the Medical Respite project and happy that State leaders and Thundermist made it a priority to incorporate the voices of Woonsocket residents experiencing homelessness in the planning and ongoing implementation of the program,” said Bonnie Piekarski, Woonsocket HEZ Community Organizer. “As the homelessness crisis continues to worsen in Woonsocket, the new Medical Respite program will be a critical resource for our neighbors who need a place to rest and heal while they search for their permanent home.”

This Program is made possible with Medicaid funding from EOHHS, through the Home and Community-Based Services Enhancement under the state’s 1115 waiver. Additional funding is provided by the state’s Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee to support people served by the program who are at risk of an overdose. Thundermist Health Center is supporting in-kind costs including the provision of clinical services and funding required to maintain the building space. The total funding from EOHHS supporting the Woonsocket Medical Respite program is $492,143.70 through June 2024, with the potential for expansion through March 2025.

For more information about Rhode Island’s Medical Respite program, please visit eohhs.ri.gov/initiatives/medical-respite-care.