Care Transformation Center Blog

You can partner to transform housing and health care for the homeless. This AMC has—and saved $1.7M

by Tomi Ogundimu and Clare Wirth

Last summer, we told you about the diverse set of housing support options provided by a partnership developed by the University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center. The projects help meet a range of patients' housing needs (e.g., transitional, episodic, or chronic homelessness), resulting in a more than $1.7 million decrease in direct costs for the population.

Starting, coordinating, and then implementing a collaboration across multiple community-based organizations to address patients' non-clinical needs is no easy feat. So, it's not surprising we received a lot of interest in how UVM Medical Center forged sustainable community partnerships—and generated tremendous cost savings.

To help you develop and sustain successful community partnerships, we interviewed stakeholders at the three main partners involved: UVM Medical Center (a tertiary academic medical center), Community Health Centers of Burlington (a federally qualified health center), and Champlain Housing Trust (a non-profit). In our webconference recording, you can hear about the shared lessons learned across these partners and listen to a Q&A with UVM Health Network's Chief Population Health and Quality Officer.

Build on existing relationships, prioritizing partners already working with your target population

Don't wait for a request for proposal from the government to get started. Before establishing a partnership, the three organizations involved knew housing insecurity was becoming a significant issue in Vermont: The number of people experiencing homelessness grew 9% between 2013 and 2014 and homeless shelter use increased 62% between 2009 and 2014.

How to build the business case for community partnership

At the time, each group was contributing what they could to help people experiencing homelessness, using different resources, processes, and often operating in silos:

  • UVM Medical Center identified patients in need in their ED and inpatient beds, safely discharging them to local motels when possible.
  • Community Health Centers of Burlington already had relationships with this patient population through their Safe Harbor Clinic for the homeless and had outreach workers connecting with these patients in the community.
  • Champlain Housing Trust's mission was (and continues to be) to create and preserve affordable housing in the community.

However, they quickly realized no one organization could address this community-wide gap alone.

They needed to develop a seamless experience for patients experiencing a range of housing needs—coordinating their care from identification to housing placement to providing necessary supportive services (e.g., case management, mental health):

Identify and empower change agents—at both your organization and your partners'

UVM Medical Center executive leadership committed to a clear top-down vision of population health and empowered their staff members and partner staff to operationalize it. Change agents make it their job to think creatively and take different-in-kind approaches to tackle the whole spectrum of their patients' needs.

For example, Dr. Stephen Leffler, UVM Medical Center's Chief Population Health & Quality Officer, introduced the game-changing mantra "housing is health care" to their region, aligning the partners around a mission of improving the community and impacting their patients' lives:

How to preserve the community safety net

Download our report to learn the necessary steps for stabilizing the community safety net under current Medicaid economics.

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Next, learn how to build the business case for community partnership

To be successful, population health programs must invest heavily in partnerships with local organizations and health departments.

Download our white paper to learn how to develop and leverage these partnerships to address the root causes of local health challenges.

Download Now