Catholic Charities' Higher Ground opens medical unit to better aid homeless

Catholic Charities officially opened a new medical care unit at its Higher Ground facility to better help homeless people who are recovering from hospital stays.

The care will help those in need, but also relieve some of the pressure on hospitals.

“If we can move people out to a place like this so they don't languish in the hospitals that frees up those beds for more individuals who need that more acute care,” said Diana Vance-Bryan, the Vice President of Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities opened their Higher Ground building in January. The facility is more than an overnight shelter, including low cost rooms for rent to help the homeless get on the right path.

With the respite care unit now open, the organization hopes to innovate further on helping the homeless.

“I think the health systems were challenged by how can we have people leave our hospitals and be well cared for and not end up back in our emergency rooms,” said Mary Brainerd of HealthPartners.

The issue hospitals have seen is the homeless back in the emergency room days after being released from surgery or illness. The constant need to be re-admitted created an expensive, vicious cycle.

“It is really tragic because part of being able to recover, some of that happens in the hospital, but a lot of it happens after you're out of the hospital at home - and if you don't have a home,” said Brainerd.

There are other respite care programs for the homeless across the country, but nothing this extensive. At Higher Ground there are 16 beds and a full-time medical staff funded by Allina, HealthPartners and Health East.

“It's a great public private partnership with the three health organizations that have stepped forward to say we want to be a part of this,” said Mayor Chris Coleman.