Cook County officials and staff from Housing Forward gathered on September 1 to discuss the opening and early success of a medical respite center in Oak Park.
Cook County Health opened the Medical Respite Center in December 2020 in partnership with Housing Forward. CountyCare, CCH’s health plan, and the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development provides have funded the facility.
As part of the program, suburban Cook County hospitals, Cook County Health facilities or a qualifying person from the Cook County Jail, refer patients who are currently experiencing housing insecurity and are in need of a safe space to recover following a hospital stay.
“I am honored to be here today with our Cook County team and our partners at Housing Forward to recognize the important work we are doing together to confront housing insecurities across Cook County and provide care with dignity and an opportunity to our patients in need of ongoing recuperation,’ Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.
Since opening, the respite center has provided recuperative care for more than 70 patients, which includes small families, who would otherwise be discharged from the hospital to a shelter or an unstable living environment.
During their time at the respite center, individuals are connected with a medical team, including a social worker, who assist in ensuring patients receive transportation to scheduled medical appointments, are connected with needed social services, and are being monitored following their hospital stay. After their recovery, staff work to place them in more permanent housing.
“Cook County Health recognizes that to truly achieve health equity here in Cook County, we need to look at health care beyond treating people within the four walls of a clinic or hospital,” said Christine Haley, Cook Count Health housing director. “Through partnerships with community agencies like Housing Forward, we have created a safe and comforting space for our patients to recover from illness and create a pathway from homelessness to permanent housing.”
“The Medical Respite Center fills a critical gap bringing health care and housing together in one model, under one roof and stops the revolving door from emergency room to the streets and back again for recurring health care needs,” said Lynda Schueler, executive director, Housing Forward. “Those experiencing homelessness are much more likely to have pre-existing medical conditions, weakened immune systems, and acute infections due to delayed care and find themselves stuck in this revolving door. A discharge to a medical respite program is the safe and positive alternative to returning people back to the streets after a hospitalization.”
This respite center is just one of several initiatives that Cook County Health has been a part of to provide support to some of the most vulnerable patients in this area. CCH is invested in the Chicago & Cook County Flexible Housing Pool and supports policy initiatives to increase system wide capacity to provide more medical respite in Cook County.