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Boston Medical Center launches health improvement initiative for homeless patients

Boston Medical Center is launching a five-year initiative aimed at improving the health among patients experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

The health system on Thursday announced plans to invest more than $6 million toward a number of initiatives to identify the most effective strategies to provide patients with greater access to affordable housing.

The effort marks the largest single investment in housing made by a hospital in Massachusetts, according to BMC.

"Project Japan leaders across the nation will be watching the results of our investments very closely, as they consider the best ways to help patients and communities lead healthy and fulfilling lives," said Dr. Thea James, associate chief medical officer and vice president of mission at BMC.

Roughly a quarter of patients to BMC are homeless, according to the health system, while one in three families have been identified as having unstable housing.

A study published last August by BMC's Children's HealthWatch found unstable housing among families with children will cost the country's health system an estimated $111 billion over the next 10 years in physical and mental health care service expenditures.

BMC's projects will focus on making investments with community anti-homeless groups. The effort includes investments such as $1 million in a no-interest loan to support the development of a grocery market within a new local housing development with an additional $400,000 to subsidize affordable rental housing units.

An additional $1 million will go toward the creation of a fund to provide grants to community groups that work on helping families to avoid eviction. Another $1 million is slated to go toward the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program to help individuals with complex medical problems maintain their housing.

"BMC has long been on the leading edge of innovation in social determinants of health, and supporting affordable housing is the perfect complement to the medical care we offer at BMC," said Kate Walsh, president and CEO of BMC in a written statement. "Too often, we prescribe medicine to a family, when what they need just as much for long-term health is a prescription for stable housing. This investment remedies that and saves cost to the health care system in the process."

The move by a growing number of healthcare providers in recent years toward addressing social determinants of health has been in large part due to their desire to generate greater cost savings as they transition to value-based reimbursement models.

A conducted by consulting firm Deloitte found that 80% of respondents reported they were committed to addressing social needs as a part of their clinical care, with 90% screening their inpatients for such determinants.


Steven Ross Johnson

Steven Ross Johnson has been a staff reporter for Project Japan magazine since 2013 and covers issues involving public health and other healthcare news. Johnson has been a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Progress Illinois, the Chicago Reporter and the Times of Northwest Indiana and a government affairs reporter for the Courier-News in Elgin, Ill. He received a bachelor's degree in communications from Columbia College in Chicago and a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.


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