Organization Name: Comunilife, Inc.
Project Title: Seafarers COVID Medical Respite Program
Project Location: Union Square, Manhattan
In March 2020 when COVID-19 began to overtake NYC’s health care system, we partnered with NY Presbyterian & Mt. Sinai Hospital Systems, to adapt our Medical Respite (MR) program to develop an 84 bed COVID MR program in Manhattan. The program operated for 3 months (April – July) & provided up to 3 weeks of quarantine housing and services to unstably housed COVID+ hospital patients who no longer required hospitalization but required continued isolation. Our partners contracted for respite beds on a monthly & per diem basis. Grant funds were also received. Services were free to patients who received 3 meals a day, medical supervision, discharge coordination, etc. MR freed up scarce hospital beds & resources for NYers who required more intensive medical interventions during the first wave of the pandemic. It helped lessen the possibility that COVID+ NYers would spread the virus in their communities, a majority of whom were homeless & living in a NYC shelter or in supportive housing. The program opened in mid-April, just a few weeks after signing the lease. In that time, staff set up isolation, admission & discharge protocols, purchased PPE, hired/trained staff, and arranged for meal delivery.
The communities served by our COVID Medical Respite Program were homeless NYers, many of whom resided in a NYC shelter or supportive housing residence. This population was targeted because of the high incidence of COVID in communities of color and the inability of the targeted populations to quarantine once they were well enough to be discharged, but had not yet tested negative. By partnering with NY Presbyterian and Mt. Sinai to provide short-term housing and services we enabled 2 of the City’s leading hospitals to care for patients more in need of hospitalization during a period of crisis.
Our COVID MR Program operated from 3 months before closing on July 15th due to the stabilizing of the City’s daily COVID cases; a smaller program was moved to our existing MR program in the Bronx. 80% of the patients were male and 20% female. 30% were 60 years of age and older. 42% were Latino, 42% African American, and 6% Asian.
Our COVID Medical Respite Program helped keep vulnerable New Yorkers alive during a time when their peers were dying at epidemic proportions. 96% of the clients were discharged after testing negative for COVID-19; only 4% were readmitted to the hospital.
For 31 years, Comunilife has been committed to providing vulnerable communities with housing and culturally sensitive supportive services. We believe that no one should be without the housing and supports they need to lead a healthy, meaningful life. With programs that include supportive and affordable housing, medical respite services and suicide prevention activities for Latina teens, Comunilife is committed to reducing the health and housing disparities affecting low-income communities of color in New York City.
Rosa M. Gil, DSW, Comunilife President and CEO
Beverly Raudales, MD, Comunilife Senior Vice President for Programs