Smooth(er) Transitions

Ascending to Health Respite Care

Pre-2012, transition care for local homeless individuals who were often too physically sick for the streets, but not so much so for the hospital, was non-existent. Hospitals had few options. They could discharge to the general shelter population or back to the streets, or try to find an interim healthcare facility to take individuals — at least those who qualified for services.

But that changed five years ago when Greg Morris, a PA who noticed the gap in services while working as a program director with Peak Vista’s Homeless Health Clinic, founded Ascending to Health Respite Care (AHRC).

“We fill a very specific niche,” he says. “We take homeless out of the hospital and put them into recovery and then try to transition them into some type of permanent housing. We can literally take somebody hospital-to-housing and break that whole cycle of homelessness, as best we can.”

And, he adds, “we do it at a pretty good clip. We’re at about a 40 percent rate and that’s actually higher than a lot of places across the country.”

With the support of a grant from Colorado Springs Health Foundation, AHRC has been able to move at an even greater clip through the addition of an onsite health clinic to help clients take care of post-discharge instructions. The grant has allowed Morris to work more hours in the clinic as a PA, to bring on an EMT who also acts as a clinic office manager, and to fund a portion of the nursing support. “We have a full-fledged clinic,” Morris says. “We can just take care of whatever post-recovery needs they have … and assess them when they come into the clinic and also when they’re ready for discharge so that we can actually document that they have gotten better and that they’re ready to transition on.”

Anecdotally he knows they’re making a difference.

“When COPDers—[those with] chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—are admitted into the program, because of the nature of the shelters, sometimes they just do horrible, and because we’re able to actually take care of their needs once those symptoms start, we’ve actually prevented probably two or three trips back to the hospital just simply because we were able to take care of that exacerbation onsite.”

But he’s got stats to back it up too. Earlier this year, not only was AHRC on track to double the number of individuals it typically admits annually, it also had decreased recidivism back to the hospital by more than 60 percent — at one point, Morris adds, they were running closer to 80 percent. “The expectation is between 40 and 50 percent,” he explains. “That’s been the biggest accomplishment from the clinic, to not have people go back to the hospital because we were able to provide direct care.”

As the CEO of a nonprofit that he still describes as “the new kid on the block,” he’s grateful for the Foundation’s backing.

“I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity with Colorado Springs Health Foundation and the monies that they provided to help enhance healthcare services, in general, especially for the impoverished and homeless, and they’ve done a phenomenal job of being able to support organizations like ours.”