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Imagine your friend is being discharged from the hospital after a major surgery, a cancer diagnosis, or life-threatening sepsis. Now imagine they don’t have a primary care provider or a place to live. You don’t have to use your imagination to know how difficult it would be to heal under those circumstances. The odds would not be in your friend’s favor. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common in Western North Carolina.
Haywood Street Congregation understood there was a need for respite care in our region. They saw it at their weekly welcome tables. To meet this need, the Asheville-based congregation decided to open its doors wider by creating a respite ministry in 2014.
Since then, Haywood Street Respite has welcomed and supported more than 1,000 community members who needed a place to rest and recover. They’ve helped these friends stay out of the hospital, get much-needed follow-up care, and secure stable housing. The respite ministry enables friends to experience and participate in a caring community. Sometimes for the first time.
“Respite care extends love to people who are so often marginalized, ignored, and treated badly,” explains Brittany Borras. This practical form of love makes a big difference. Most secure a safe place to stay after discharge. Those who don’t are connected to housing and other local service providers like Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, Helpmate, Homeward Bound, the Housing Authority, and Vaya Health.
Though effective, respite care is costly and virtually nonexistent for those without the means to pay for it. It is also underfunded, which is why Haywood Street Respite was excited to partner with the Healthy Opportunities Pilot (HOP), which provides reimbursement for up to 6 months of respite care for Medicaid Managed Care members.
“HOP has given us the opportunity to make respite care truly sustainable,” shares respite director Nicole Brown. Pilot funds have enabled the Haywood Street Congregation to purchase a new stove, freezer, dining room table, and bedroom furniture. With Brittany overseeing HOP services, Nicole has been able to focus on securing funding to provide clinical support for those with behavioral health and substance use disorders. HOP is also making it possible for the organization to extend the length of stay, which is critical for friends with complex medical needs like David.
When David came to Haywood Street Respite, he had recently been diagnosed with cancer. After helping him get settled, the respite team connected him with an oncologist. Health advocates ensured he could meaningfully participate in his care. The team provided transportation to chemotherapy and other medical appointments. When it became clear David wasn’t going to recover, the team helped him coordinate hospice care. They’re also honoring his request to die in the community he now calls home.
“We feel so blessed to be with him,” shares Elizabeth Bowers who manages respite services. “So many people do not have the dignity of dying in community.”
Despite his terminal illness, David has been able to live to his life to the fullest in this caring community. The staff arranged for him to visit to the Biltmore House, a real treat for a history buff, and for scenic drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The community also celebrated with him as he married his long-time companion in a small ceremony at the respite house.
These are the kinds of opportunities you’d want for any friend. It’s also why HOP is focused on creating opportunities for individuals and families to thrive.
– Brittany Borras
– Nicole Bowers