Patients Prescribed Shelter and Medication Are Wary of Trump Cuts

For eight months, Jamal Brown’s body shook, so violently that he lost consciousness and ended up in the hospital more than 30 times. Though only in his 30s, his face drooped, his arms and legs often felt numb, and he was overcome with the anxiety of being a homeless drug addict trying to get clean in Camden, N.J.

Then, last July, as he lay in a hospital bed after his third stroke, a representative of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers came to his bedside and suggested a different kind of treatment for his illnesses: a federal housing voucher.

Within months, Mr. Brown, who had been bouncing between shelters, had a one-bedroom apartment in Somerdale, N.J., 10 miles from where his father first introduced him to crack cocaine. Mr. Brown has not been back to an emergency room since.

Boston Medical Center also began a pilot program in October aimed at connecting several chronically ill patients with housing instability to public housing and Section 8 vouchers through a partnership with city officials and local groups.

“It’s actually a housing diagnosis, not a medical diagnosis,” said Dr. Megan T. Sandel, associate director of the Grow Clinic for Children at Boston Medical Center and one of the doctors working on the program.

“When we talk about solutions to health care spending,” she said, “we don’t talk a lot about the fact that because we haven’t invested enough in helping people afford where they live and creating places for them to live, we end up paying for the other side of it in terms of physical health care costs, mental health care costs, and other things.”

Dr. Sandel said about a quarter of the patients admitted to Boston Medical Center were homeless and repeatedly visit for issues like kidney disease — having dialysis treatments and taking medications on time is a struggle for patients without housing.

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