In his mid-40s, David* faced significant mental health and substance abuse issues. Not only did he have a history of bipolar disorder, he abused opioids, seeking help regularly for distressing withdrawal symptoms at Centra Lynchburg General Hospital’s emergency department. Without outpatient therapy, David relapsed time and time again, and his local sober living housing options were rapidly disappearing.
Sheila’s* life was fraught with myriad stressors and little stability. Although she had the support of several family members and friends, transportation and residential instability served as roadblocks to her mental health and personal growth. She also suffered from auditory hallucinations (“hearing voices”) and persistent thoughts of suicide from her feeling of helplessness. But today, hope for the future shines brightly in David and Sheila’s lives.
Both received treatment in the adult psychiatric unit at Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital. And both benefited at discharge from the donor-funded Financial Assistance for Change and Empowerment (FACE) project. They are among the 75 patients assisted by donor funding in 2019 and 2020 with post-discharge challenges such as transportation, safe and stable housing, utilities, sober living residences and legal fees.
“Prior to FACE funding, we couldn’t do much to help patients who had significant socioeconomic stressors at home or a lack of reliable transportation to medical appointments or pharmacies,” said Lillian Carter, PA, with the adult psychiatric unit. “It has been wonderful to see the surprise and gratitude from patients when we can help them with bus passes, sober living deposits or payment of past due utility bills or rent. Patients have more hope for the future. They can see the goodness in humanity when a healthcare provider is able to help meet tangible needs, and this gives them a more positive outlook on life."
Lillian noted that donor funding to assist patients with post-discharge challenges also helps to prevent re-admissions, in turn increasing access for other patients in need of hospitalization and decreasing healthcare costs.
“When we address specific stressors quickly, we can help prevent patients from being readmitted. This has a significant impact on the entire community.”
Gifts for stability and sobriety
David, who told therapists he desperately tried to live a successful life, lacked structure and transportation, both of which played a role in his gradual mental health deterioration and substance abuse relapses. In addition to these roadblocks, he could not afford the costs associated with most sober living houses.
Fortunately, David had Medicaid, which meant he could receive appropriate outpatient services necessary for a successful discharge. But residential stability and transportation remained significant challenges. Although Medicaid offers transportation to outpatient appointments, it did not cover the daily transportation for David's methadone appointments.
David couldn't afford alternative transportation and worried without methadone, he would relapse and be readmitted to the hospital. Donor support for the FACE project provided the solution: funds for a monthly bus pass so that David could get to these appointments.
His most significant challenge, residential stability, remained. One by one, residential rehabilitation facilities denied his re-admission because of David’s mental health diagnosis, previous inappropriate behaviors, or their lack of ability to provide methadone. Phone calls and pleas for help went unanswered by weary and frustrated family members. David's motivation and newfound hope were gradually fading.
A bed became available at a local sober living facility, but it required a high level of commitment. David agreed and was accepted. However, the cost was more than he could afford. Once again, the FACE project was there to help by funding his move-in fees and first month’s stay. David was confident he could pay for the following months until transitioning to independent housing.
David’s monthly visits to the emergency department have ended, and he has not been admitted to a psychiatric facility since discharge. Thanks to donor support, David has made a positive change toward sobriety and stability.
Help to buy a ticket for a new life
After Sheila’s admission to the adult psychiatric unit, she was given a 30-day bus pass, which she used to travel around town and to attend follow-up appointments. She reached out to several friends for temporary housing support but she could not raise what she needed. The expiration of her bus pass was quickly approaching.
Donor funding to the FACE project enabled staff to provide another 30-day bus pass and match the donations of her friends, providing enough money to secure two months’ rent with Section 8 housing.
With tears in her eyes, Sheila expressed gratitude for donor funding and hope regarding her future. Donor support not only changed her perspective, it changed her life.