Mary’s Place, Regence partner to expand health services to Seattle’s homeless families

June 10, 2019
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By Regence

Regence believes that every partnership we cultivate, every dollar we pledge and every hour we volunteer makes the communities in which we live, work and play healthier. This post is part of a blog series that highlights how Regence is collaborating with community partners to positively impact the quality of life of people and families in our communities.

The Seattle-King County metro area has the third-highest number of people experiencing homelessness in the country, behind only the New York and Los Angeles metro areas. According to federal data, more than 12,000 people in King County experienced homelessness in a single night, and 22 percent of them are families with children.

King County-based Mary’s Place aims to address the issue by providing safe, inclusive shelter and services that support women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness.

Now operating eight emergency family shelters, a single-family home and a women’s drop-in day center – including a new family shelter in South Lake Union – Mary’s Place has helped thousands of families navigate out of homelessness over the last 20 years.

To further its impact in the community, Mary’s Place relies on community and volunteer support, along with funding from corporate donors. Between 2015 and 2018, Regence invested $300,000 in Mary’s Place, and just announced it will provide $100,000 this year to fund an expansion of the nonprofit’s innovative Health Services program.

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Much more than shelter

For Mary’s Place, Health Services is a critical component of the mission of providing not just emergency shelter but a full range of support services to people experiencing homelessness, from food and nutrition education to help finding employment and permanent housing.

“When a family comes to us from off the street or from living in their car, or from a friend or a relative’s house, it’s because of their financial status, or an illness or a catastrophic situation that pushes them into homelessness,” said Dr. Joe Sherman, Health Services Director for Mary’s Place. “We want to meet whatever needs they have to help get them into safe, permanent housing.”

As Mary’s Place has grown, the organization has been able to offer more services than just shelter. The funding from Regence has helped fuel an expansion of their health services programming over the last two years.

To address the growing health needs of their guests, Mary’s Place hired Sherman as Health Services Director in October 2017, who previously had been juggling part-time volunteering at Mary’s Place with a full-time role in pediatrics. Health Services is staffed by Sherman, part-time nurses and a full-time program manager, as well as a dozen providers who volunteer their time. 

The funding from Regence will allow Mary’s Place to support Sherman’s role and to expand their nursing staff, ensuring that health services can be accessed at each of the family centers, as well as the day center.

“It was a natural fit to support the expansion of the Health Services programs, given our interest in addressing key social determinants of health,” said Celicia Yeoman with Regence’s corporate social responsibility team. “We’re proud to continue our support of Mary’s Place and their vision to provide a community where all families have safety, stability and housing.”

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Celicia Yeoman (Regence) and Linda Mitchell (Mary’s Place, chief communications officer) at a recent fundraising luncheon.

Innovations in health care

Two of Mary’s Place’s most innovative programs operate under Health Services: Popsicle Place, which provides comfort and care for families with children facing life-threatening illnesses; and Baby’s Best Start, which allows moms and newborns to bond and recover in a private setting.

“We believe that children with life-threatening illnesses should not be living in cars and tents awaiting chemo or dialysis,” said Linda Mitchell, chief communications officer for Mary’s Place. “Families who have lost everything in the struggle to get their child well can find a home in Popsicle Place and have a place to receive care and support.”

“Baby’s Best Start helps women before their baby is born and then provides them with a private room and health services to help bond with their baby in the first months of the baby’s life,” Sherman said.

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More expansion ahead

Mary’s Place wants to continue to expand its health services staff to provide better case management, better outcomes tracking and monitoring for their patients, and the ability to address specialized needs, such as mental health support and chronic disease management.

“From the moment a family loses a home to when they find their forever home, Mary’s Place is there every step of the way,” said Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place. “With continued support from strong community partners like Regence, we can bring children and families inside to safety and stability and positively impact the health of our communities.”

To learn more about Mary’s Place, please visit marysplaceseattle.org.

All photos courtesy of Mary’s Place.

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