Boston Medical Center (BMC) on Thursday announced it will invest $6.5 million over five years in affordable housing projects in Boston in an effort to improve community and patient health by tackling housing insecurity and homelessness, The Boston Globe reports.
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According to the Globe, BMC's investment is the largest made by a hospital in the state of Massachusetts.
According to a BMC release, a quarter of the patients admitted to the hospital are homeless. Further, data from BMC's pediatric ED show one in three families have unstable housing or are at risk of eviction.
Research has tied housing insecurity to several health problems, including asthma, lead exposure, and depression, according to BMC. BMC added that families who face housing insecurity often have to choose between paying for medication and paying their rent.
BMC commits to 'prescribing housing for health'
To address those problems, BMC under the five-year commitment will invest in a broad range of affordable housing projects to help local residents access a "larger pool of stable, affordable housing."
For instance, BMC said it will invest:
- $1 million in no-interest loans and a $400,000 operating subsidy to support a new food market in a mixed-use development in Roxbury;
- $1 million in a stabilization fund to provide grants to community-based organizations to help families prevent evictions in and around Boston; and
- $1 million in the Pine Street Inn, the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, and other community partners to develop a housing stabilization program for individuals diagnosed with complex medical problems, such as substance use disorders.
BMC said the initiative will be studied to "determine the best ways that health care systems can improve both community and patient level health and reduce medical costs by addressing homelessness and housing insecurity."
BMC President and CEO Kate Walsh said, "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" BMC offers. She added, "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."
Megan Sandel, a pediatrician at BMC, said, "The return on investment for projects like these is two-fold." Sandel explained, "There is a direct health benefit, but that in turn creates significant savings in health care spending." In addition, Sandel said, "Most importantly, we are building healthy communities, where families can thrive financially and physically."
Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said the state "hope[s] this investment in housing and other social determinants of health becomes a model for how to improve health outcomes for patients" (Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare, 12/7; Dayal McCluskey, Boston Globe, 12/7; BMC release, 12/7).
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