Six Oregon health care organizations, including five major hospitals, are donating $21.5 million to help Portland meet critical challenges in affordable housing, homelessness and health care. 

The participating health care organizations are Adventist Health Portland; CareOregon; Kaiser Permanente Northwest; Legacy Health; Oregon Health & Science University; and Providence Health & Services in Oregon.

"If you look at many of the repeat patients who come to our emergency departments on a frequent basis, often they don't have a stable housing situation," says David Russell, president and CEO of Adventist Medical Center and Adventist Health Medical Group in Portland. "We don't discharge (homeless) people to the streets. I don't think any of the hospitals in the community do."

The initiative provides Portland hospitals with "a very good housing situation to potentially discharge patients to," Russell says.

Participating health care organizations are investing in a unique partnership with Central City Concern, a nonprofit agency serving single adults and families in the Portland metro area who are impacted by homelessness, poverty and addictions.

The initiative will include these components:

  • The Eastside Health Center will serve medically fragile individuals and people in recovery from addictions and mental illness with a first-floor clinic and housing for 176 people. The center also will offer 24-hour medical staffing on one floor.
  • The Stark Street Apartments in East Portland will provide 155 units of workforce housing.
  • The Interstate Apartments in North Portland will provide 51 units designed for families. It is part of Portland's North/Northeast Neighborhood Housing Strategy to help displaced families return to their neighborhood.

"All of these problems are interwoven," says George Brown, M.D., president and CEO of Legacy Health. "Affordable housing, homelessness, behavioral health, drug addiction. This investment helps the Portland community move in the right direction toward a solution to these problems."

Dave Underriner, regional chief executive of Providence Health & Services in Oregon, says the "sweet spot of this project is that it serves those folks who can transition into stable housing with wrap-around services that support their care. It helps us better provide a continuum of care, so these folks don't end up in our emergency departments."

Eric Hunter, CEO of CareOregon, a health plan that serves Medicaid and Medicare patients, says the initiative aligns with the health plan's mission and offers another opportunity to partner with hospitals it has worked with.

"This effort doesn't just serve one or all of those organizations," Hunter says. "It's a greater community benefit."

Underriner says hospitals throughout the country should pursue similar initiatives. "These are vulnerable members of our community who don't have access to the kind of housing and support they need. When we talk about population health management, this is the kind of effort that needs to come about."