Since joining the Community Health Centers of Burlington (CHCB) as Chief Executive Officer two months ago, I’ve been impressed by our organizational commitment to helping all members of our community, regardless of financial status or life circumstance. I’m especially proud of our ongoing collaborative efforts to work with and support our local homeless population.
Housing and health care is a win-win combination, saving lives and saving the system thousands of dollars. CHCB has participated in supportive housing programs for over a decade and we’re thrilled with the recent attention this initiative has been getting in the community. The University of Vermont Medical Center created this video highlighting the collaborative work at Beacon Apartments, a permanent supportive housing project for our region’s most vulnerable homeless residents.
For the first time, we have an organized community system for housing priorities. Each partner brings their own expertise to the whole. As a community, we have learned there is not one organization that can do it all and we are stronger together, than apart. Homelessness requires a home; Champlain Housing Trust rehabbed and maintains safe and decent housing at Beacon Apartments. Alleviating poverty requires affordability and long-term financial security; Burlington Housing Authority provides the rental subsidies clients require for success in remaining housed. The barriers of chronic disease, addiction and mental illness must be reduced, eliminated or managed to stay healthy and housed; CHCB brings the mental health and substance abuse treatment, primary care and intensive and ongoing case management and supportive housing clients require to transition to secure lives.
It’s these case management services that put the “support” in “supportive housing.” Providing a stable housing environment is an important first step in getting Burlington’s homeless population back on their feet, but providing consistent medical and counseling resources is integral to ensuring long-term, sustainable success. CHCB’s Homeless Healthcare Program staff not only goes out into the streets and emergency shelters, they also ensure residents have the support they need when housed.
Housing the most medically-vulnerable and complex residents also makes economic sense. One of the goals with this collaborative project is to reduce Emergency Department visits. The University of Vermont Medical Center looked at data from the 95 patients they discharged to Harbor Place, a short-term supportive housing project, and documented a savings of almost $1 million in health care costs, a 42% reduction in Emergency Department visits and 68% fewer inpatient admissions. The expectation for Beacon Apartments, which provides permanent housing, is that those numbers will continue to improve dramatically. These efforts mirror our revamping of the Warming Shelter to a year-round approach to Warming and Care Management for our very vulnerable community members.
We’re especially thankful to our philanthropic supporters, The University of Vermont Medical Center, United Way of Northwest Vermont, Fanny Allen Foundation, and the Vermont Community Foundation, whose donations provided these case management services at Beacon Apartments this year. It’s my hope that these partnerships will continue to improve the lives of our most vulnerable community members well into the foreseeable future.
Greg Robinson earned his PhD in Health Services and Policy Analysis from the University of California, Berkeley. He holds a Prince 2 Certification in Project Management. He most recently served as Vice President, Accountable Care Services/Vice President, Finance and Informatics at the University of Vermont Medical Center and One Care Vermont. Prior to that, he held a number of leadership positions related to population health management, informatics, and quality performance improvement.