patient dumping Homelessness|Stock Photo

A new project aims to help Phoenix-area hospitals avoid “patient dumping” by providing somewhere for them to go when their treatment is over.

Valleywise Health and Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) are piloting a new project they hope will help people experiencing homelessness to manage chronic health issues. 

In February, CASS began offering eight beds in its Phoenix shelter specifically for people recently released from Valleywise Health Medical Center who need time and space to recuperate.

The program aims to cut down on the number of people released from the hospital with nowhere to go, a practice referred to as “patient dumping,” according to a report by The Arizona Republic.

The newspaper defines the term as situations “when hospitals, psychiatric wards or other medical facilities discharge patients to shelters or the street without plans for their care, instead of keeping patients until they recover or transferring them to a nursing facility.” 

Valleywise acknowledged the difficulty of caring for patients experiencing homelessness, saying in a press release that it has struggled to find shelter space for patients who need it. 

As a part of the new project, Valleywise will provide transportation for the patients to the CASS shelter, while CASS will provide patients with information on long-term health care, housing, and other resources.  

“We are truly grateful to Valleywise Health for stepping up to make this new hospital drop off program a reality for people coming to CASS’ adult emergency shelter and who need recovery time after a hospital discharge,” CASS CEO Lisa Glow said in a press release. “The designated area and new semi-private beds inside of the CASS adult shelter will allow a newly discharged person who is frail the extra time they need to recover with dignity.”

Glow said she hopes more local healthcare providers will step up and help provide solutions. 

“The homeless crisis is simply too big for anyone of us on our own to solve; together, however, we can create innovative solutions and build a more dignified service delivery system for people experiencing homelessness,” she said. 

According to the Maricopa Association of Governments, there were more than 6,600 people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County in January 2019. Just over half did have some sort of shelter, while 48% were unsheltered.