Recuperative Care at COTS

The Sisters of St. Joseph built their first hospital exactly one hundred years ago, in the city of Eureka, in the wake of the influenza epidemic of 1918. The sisters had learned to nurse during the epidemic and the experience led them to make healthcare their mission.

Our second-floor permanent supportive housing residents with case manager Conor Feeney, far right

That mission grew from one hospital to a huge healthcare system throughout California and Texas, St. Joseph Health. We at COTS are grateful for St. Joseph Health’s support every day, especially for their huge contributions to two of our housing programs dedicated to those with serious medical conditions. Thanks to St. Joseph Health, we can provide private, permanent housing and services to up to 14 people with serious health issues. St. Joseph also helps fund our recuperative care program where clients convalesce from surgery or serious illness.

But we’re even more grateful than usual now because, true to form, St. Joseph Health is a great ally in an epidemic.

We’ve had to make changes in all our housing programs in response to the epidemic. They include a reduction in the number of people we can sleep in our recuperative care room. But though we’re temporarily serving fewer people, “St. Joseph Health has been understanding, flexible and creative,” says Jules Pelican, COTS Director of Programs. “They are great partners and collaborators, always ready to take the larger picture into account. They bring people together to find solutions. That can mean pinpointed tactical help or a huge investment in our housing and health care programs.”

As just one example of a quick and essential intervention, Jules points to St. Joseph Health’s recent donation of iPads to outreach workers throughout the county. “St. Joseph is interested in what it takes to get things done,” Jules says. “In this case, they wanted to make it easier for outreach workers to connect with people who are camping along creek sides and in cars. It’s essential during this pandemic that we provide those with serious health risks the opportunity to move to temporary housing programs at SSU.” Thanks to Sonoma County, temporary housing at SSU is available to up to 150 homeless individuals who are in high-risk groups for serious complications from the Corona Virus.

These iPads are crucial, portable tools. For a variety of reasons, which can include PTSD and other mental health struggles, getting people to say “yes” to SSU often means building a rapport and a relationship. The devices help outreach workers keep track of campers’ locations and note needs they can fulfill—with socks or food, for example. The devices are small, and they’re equipped with software to make note-taking quick and unobtrusive, unlikely to get in the way of conversation and building trust.

The iPads are just the start of what St. Joseph Health is doing to protect the health of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. The organization is a leader when it comes to testing for COVID-19, including the administration of tests for those who are homeless. Importantly, through their mobile health center, St. Joseph Health is also providing medical care for the people who’ve been housed at Sonoma State University and in local hotels. All of these residents are managing serious health conditions, so this assistance is crucial.

St. Joseph Health is also a major supporter of Catholic Charities’ housing programs and makes collaboration and coordination among providers a priority.

“They bring us all to the table,” Jules says. “They bring policy makers to the table, and then we can all look together at solutions. The wonderful thing about them is that the results they want to see are all linked to improved health. We may also see a reduction in emergency room usage, but that’s a secondary consideration.”

Housing and shelter providers are natural partners for St. Joseph Health, says Dan Schurman, Community Health Investment Manager for St. Joseph Health. That’s true every day—not just during these dangerous times. “Housing is health,” Dan says. “That’s not a joke. It’s not a slogan. Housing is the number one determinant of health. The connection is dramatic and direct.”

Our clients benefit greatly from St. Joseph Health’s support, and so does the entire community. They provide free and low-cost health and dental care throughout the county, and they work with schools and community groups to educate and empower children and adults to make healthy choices.

Thank you, St. Joseph Health!

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