Faith-based hospitals around the country are going above and beyond to serve their communities, improving the overall health of their patients even outside their walls. Here are just four of the organizations who are putting their faith into action by making a difference in their areas:
Presbyterian Healthcare Services (Albuquerque, N.M.): Healthy Eating Initiatives
New Mexico ranks first for child hunger nationally and second for adult hunger. Knowing this, Presbyterian Healthcare Services began its Healthy Eating initiative to help address the dire issue and received the 2015 NOVA award from the American Hospital Association for its efforts. After conducting a community needs health assessment, it began working with health departments, community health providers, food pantries and neighborhood advisory boards to integrate healthy eating into healthcare. It partners with MO-GRO, a mobile grocery store, and La Cosecha to help get quality, healthy food to families who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through a subsidized community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. They are also working to refer patients through their electronic health records to resources on food, chronic disease self-management and cooking education. Presbyterian is also looking into buying more of the food they serve patients locally to not only increase health benefits but support the local economy.
CHI St. Gabriel’s (Little Falls, Minn.): Reducing the Opioid Problem
CHI St. Gabriel’s Hospital was given the NOVA Award by the American Hospital Association in 2017 for their work addressing the opioid problem in their area. According to the report, the no. 1 reason patients came to the hospital was for narcotics to address chronic pain, and the hospital began seeing an increasing number of overdoses in their emergency department related to the drugs. On top of that, it was estimated 60 percent of the prescribed medications were being diverted by patients to sell illegally.
Partnering with government organizations and the South County Health Alliance, St. Gabriel’s established a program including three components: a multi-disciplinary care team, a leadership team to oversee the care team, and a community-wide prescription drug task force. Prescriptions were expanded to include start dates, a maximum number of pills per day and a “must last 30 days before refilling” provision. Holistic treatment is also a priority, enabling, for example, pharmacists to review prescription history while social workers can address other issues like behavior health, addiction and homelessness. During the first year, the drug-seeking diagnosis was no longer on the Top 20 list at the hospital’s emergency department. A local pharmacy saw a 20 percent drop in narcotics prescriptions, and in 4 months, the South County Health Alliance saw a more than $400,000 reduction in pharmacy claims. The hospital says they are now taking 16,000 pills off the streets every month.
Providence Sacred Heart (Spokane, Wash.): Respite Care for the Homeless
Providence Sacred Heart has been providing respite care for the homeless people in their area who are treated in their emergency department. According to WSHA, about 5 percent of the patients who use the emergency services at Providence Sacred Heart are homeless, and though they often need follow-up care, rest and comfort, they have no place to go. Providence Health Care and Catholic Charities of Spokane teamed up to develop the Transitive Respite Care for the Homeless program, which provides a safe, supervised place to rehabilitate from serious injury after hospital discharge or to recover from serious illness. Services can also include rides to medical appointments, mental health counseling, and access to case managers who can connect them to services like social security and housing.
St. Mary’s Health System (Lewiston, Maine): Addressing Lead Poisoning, Obesity and Poverty
St. Mary’s Health System partnered with several community organizations and government entities to provide education on the problem of lead poisoning in the area it serves. Forming the Green & Healthy Homes Initiatives in Lewiston, Maine along with the Maine Housing Authority and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, they started a Neighbor to Neighbor program educating the Somali women in their area about the dangers of lead poisoning, then encouraging them to tell their neighbors. Just three years in, 63 percent of the Somali population in the area were familiar with the threat of lead, when previously there was not a concept in their language that described it. St. Mary’s also sponsored a community food assessment in 2013, which found that the poverty rate for children under 5 was 43 percent. This information prompted the formation of the Good Food Council, which serves as a forum to discuss these needs and support programs to address them.