Health Systems Unite To Open Innovative Center That Helps People Experiencing Homelessness Successfully Transition From The Hospital Back To The Community.
Center dedicated to former Francis House leader and homeless advocate Gregory Bunker.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – WellSpace Health, in collaboration with Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, and UC Davis Health, came together with elected officials and other dignitaries to cut the ribbon and dedicate the new Gregory Bunker Care Transitions Center of Excellence today in South Sacramento.
The “Bunker” as it is affectionately known is a new recuperative care center that provides healthcare and case management services to people who are experiencing homelessness and are transitioning from a hospital back into the community.
“WellSpace Health believes everybody deserves to be seen, no matter who you are, where you come from, where you work or what place you call home – we see you,” said Dr. Jonathan Porteus, WellSpace Health CEO. “This center, and the long-term collaboration it embodies, represents these values in action and our shared commitment to seek out innovative solutions that improve a person’s health while seeking solutions to their experience of homelessness.”
The new center expands a nationally recognized Recuperative Care Program that has provided people experiencing homelessness with a safe place to recover after an in-patient hospital stay since 2005. The WellSpace Health program has been funded by all four local health systems since its inception and until now, co-located in local shelters. The new center provides a dedicated facility with more capacity for care and innovation.
“Nearly two decades ago, Dignity Health and our health system partners joined WellSpace Health to fill a critical need in our community to provide temporary respite and recovery for discharged patients experiencing homelessness,” said Phyllis Baltz, President of Dignity Health Methodist Hospital of Sacramento. “This innovative partnership has served and benefited so many in our community, and we are excited to see this facility come to fruition to meet the need now and into the future.”
“Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping Sacramento residents who don’t have stable housing with a safe place to recover as they transition back into the community,” said Trish Rodriguez, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento and interim senior vice president and area manager for Sacramento. “Kaiser Permanente is making ongoing investments in the Sacramento area to address housing and homelessness and working with other hospitals and health systems to improve the health of our community.”
“Healthcare needs—or needs that help support improved health—don’t always begin and end with hospitalization,” said Rachael McKinney, CEO of Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento and Hospital Area CEO, Central Valley. “When we invest in impactful programs such as these, that offer wraparound services and additional support, we can extend the care we give beyond our hospital walls and continue to help improve overall community health.”
“UC Davis Health is proud to be part of this vital partnership that has supported the Interim Care Program for years, as we all recognize the important work that WellSpace Health is doing to provide comprehensive care,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health and vice chancellor for human health sciences. “We look forward to continuing to build public-private partnerships with WellSpace Health, the City of Sacramento, Sacramento County, community-based organizations, and other groups helping people experiencing homelessness lead healthy lives.”
Thanks to the added capacity, WellSpace Health will be adding additional care transition programs, including a new program that serves people at-risk of hospitalization due to adverse health conditions identified during emergency department visits. This and future programs will exemplify the California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) program, which is the state’s long-term commitment to transform and strengthen Medi-Cal, offering Californians a more equitable, coordinated, and person-centered care approach that reaches beyond traditional exam rooms.
“WellSpace Health has designed the Bunker to be a “Care Transitions Center of Excellence” where we can seek out best practice opportunities for meaningful engagement and connections to clinically integrated care,” said Porteus. “We have learned over the past two decades that a person’s point of transition is a critical moment that requires our intentional focus and innovation.”
The center will be dedicated to Gregory Bunker (1948-2010) in honor of his service to the people of Sacramento. Bunker was the longtime Executive Director of Francis House and an advocate for people experiencing homelessness. Among his many efforts, he was a founding member of the Safe Ground Project that sought to provide refuge to people living on the street.
Bunker’s family, including his wife Stephanie, his sons, and his brother David joined the celebration to unveil a dedication plaque and a memorial tribute inside the new center bearing his name. With a nod to Bunker’s military service and thanks to a pledge from a local VFW chapter, one of the recreation rooms will be named after a “hooch” that Greg Bunker and his fellow soldiers created ‘in-country” when he served in Vietnam. A hooch is military slang for living quarters in combat where soldiers can rest.
WellSpace Health co-hosted this ceremony with health systems Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, and UC Davis Health, each of whom are longtime care transition program sponsors and capital campaign champions.
Referrals into the new center are provided through hospitals and healthcare partners. The center does not provide walk-up services or allow self-referrals.