As part of our commitment to serving as the community’s health partner, we regularly take stock of the most pressing needs facing our patients and the region to ensure we are investing in the areas that have the largest impact on health.
Our 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment identified three top health concerns: mental health services, substance abuse and addiction, and homelessness.
Swedish is acutely aware that our community is grappling with a homelessness epidemic. More than 11,000 people in King County are without a stable, safe home. As the Seattle region’s largest healthcare provider, we see these challenges firsthand and recognize that homelessness is a crisis of health. It is imperative that we play an active role in finding long-term, sustainable solutions so our neighbors can live healthier lives.
Homelessness, like many public health challenges, is a complex issue that requires robust partnership between public officials, health care providers, business leaders and the nonprofit community.
On May 15, we announced a partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) and Premera Blue Cross to commit $15 million ($5 million from each organization) to our long-time community partner Plymouth Housing, a local nonprofit that provides permanent supportive housing coupled with services for people experiencing homelessness. We issued a challenge to other companies and business leaders to join the fight. I’m proud that our investment helped catalyze donations that enabled Plymouth to launch a $75 million capital campaign to build eight new buildings. This will nearly double the number of residents Plymouth serves.
Here is a link to an op-ed I authored with PSJH President of Operations and Services Mike Butler and Premera CEO Jeff Roe on this issue.
Our partnership with Plymouth Housing is just one example of the commitment we are making to our community. Our recently published 2018 Community Benefit Report details the $237 million we spent on community benefit programs last year, which included nearly $24 million in free and discounted health care. Through this work, we served more than 93,000 Medicaid patients last year alone, and our caregivers volunteered 13,000 hours of community service.
These numbers represent our focus on increasing access to care and ensuring that free and discounted care is available for patients who need it, so they never have to choose between paying medical bills and putting food on the table.
It is Swedish’s duty and privilege to serve the most vulnerable, and I am heartened to see visionary business and civic leaders from other sectors join us in supporting long-term solutions to improve our community’s health, safety and wellbeing. We have much more work to do, but I am confident we can make a real difference when we work together.