Thursday, July 7, 2011 2:00 AM

Respite center offers bridge for homeless patients

Fresno’s homeless residents now have a safer place to continue their medical recuperation after discharge from area hospitals. Community Medical Centers, in partnership with other health care providers, has opened the Fresno Medical Respite Center, which will provide eight beds for men at the Fresno Rescue Mission in downtown Fresno and two beds for women at the Mental Health System’s Hacienda Facility, off Freeway 99 in central Fresno.

“This provides a bridge of care for those who no longer need acute medical attention as hospital inpatients,” said Stephen R. Walter, Community’s chief corporate financial officer, at a July 6 press conference at the Fresno Rescue Mission.

The center model, although unique to Fresno, has been successfully implemented elsewhere in California. Its goals include providing intermediate care in a more homelike atmosphere.

Because of a scarcity of outpatient remedial resources in the community, particularly during these hard economic times, some homeless patients tend to have unnecessarily prolonged, expensive hospital stays. Those stays are as much as 4.7 days longer than average patients, according to the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, which facilitated the creation of the respite center.

In addition to Community, which has provided financial and other support, partners include: Clinica Sierra Vista, which will evaluate clients before admission and provide follow-up; the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California; the Marjaree Mason Center; St. Agnes Medical Center; and Kaiser Permanente, which provided an initial planning grant for the program.

Patients will spend two to six weeks at the respite center. Their care will be coordinated through Clinica Sierra Vista social workers, who will help identify housing options through the Fresno/Madera Continuum of Care.

“Once the center is fully operational, our other hospital colleagues from across the county will also participate in the use and support of the center,” said Lynne Ashbeck, regional vice president for the Hospital Council. “We also look forward to working with (Fresno) Mayor Ashley Swearingen’s ‘Fresno First Steps Home’ project as we move ahead.”

John G. Taylor reported this story. He can be reached at