For the past six weeks, the Homeless in Santa Barbara blog has been looking at what happens to homeless people in Santa Barbara following a hospital stay. Few people are truly well after being discharged from the hospital, and many remain weak and fragile for weeks.
I followed four homeless people who received care at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and were then discharged to one of two nonprofit homeless agencies: the large Casa Esperanza homeless shelter and the smaller WillBridge of Santa Barbara. Two of these four people had smooth transitions. Two bounced between WillBridge and Casa, and back again to Cottage Hospital’s emergency department because neither environment was suitable.
Then there was the sad debacle that followed Cindy McCallum’s visit to the ER last month. With partial paralysis and a cognitive disability, McCallum was discharged with a bus token to the Rescue Mission, but never made it there. Instead, she spent the next three nights outside, unable to see to her most basic needs.
Medical respite centers for homeless individuals are currently being recognized throughout the country as an efficient solution to exactly these kinds of problems. Not only do such centers save lives, they reduce future hospital stays, thereby also reducing costs. It’s too early to know if Santa Barbara will consider creating such a facility, but it’s obvious there is a need for something along these lines here.
To conclude this series, I sat down with Cottage Health System’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Steve Fellows. I wanted to know if he’d read this series, and if so, what he thought. Our discussion was lively and thorough.