By Jacqueline Quynh

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Health Medical Center will become one of the first hospitals in the state to offer housing to some of its homeless patients. The effort is designed to keep them from having to recover on the streets.

Denver Health

(credit: CBS)

“I take care of people everyday who are hospitalized who are really suffering from the health inequities that are associated with homelessness,” Dr. Sarah Stella said.

Stella has worked over a decade at the Denver Health Medical Center. The hospital is considered a “safety net hospital,” that is, it’s there to help anyone regardless if they can pay. She explained some patients, after getting treatment, are still too ill to recover without shelter.

“Medical complications that may require some longterm treatment, maybe some trauma that’s going to make it hard for them to function on the street,” Stella explained of the various conditions she sees.

Sarah Stella

CBS4’s Jacqueline Quynh interviews Dr. Sarah Stella (credit: CBS)

And when there’s no home for a patient to return to, some end up stranded in the hospital where hospital fees may add up to $4,000 a day.

“You know my work is focused on how to improve health outcomes for people who are experiencing homelessness and really housing is health care.”

Denver Health

(credit: CBS)

That’s why for the past two years, Stella has worked with other hospital leaders to help form a partnership with the Denver Housing Authority to transform an old Denver Health administration building on the corner of Speer and Broadway into a transition facility for senior patients that are homeless. It’s planned to have 15 beds to start.

“Really targeting people that really don’t have any other options,” she said.

Sarah Stella

Sarah Stella (credit: CBS)

This unique partnership could help defray hospital costs that often come out of taxpayer pockets and at the same time help those in pain get a better chance to heal.

“This isn’t going fix homelessness in Denver, we have many more patients that are in our hospital, that are in our healthcare system that we serve that that homeless but it’s a step in the right direction,” Stella said.

Denver Health

(credit: CBS)

Programs like this one already exist in other cities, such as Baltimore and Cleveland. Meanwhile, Stella says other hospitals in the area are also discussing similar proposals. The Denver Health facility is expected to open potentially in 2021.

Jacqueline Quynh

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