Cleveland-based MetroHealth announced Friday that it plans to provide housing, job training and other social services to the local community as part of a $60 million investment.
The system plans to provide about 250 new apartments to residents along with a center focused on community support programs. The funds will come from MetroHealth's own budget and philanthropy, said Dr. Akram Boutros, CEO of the system. MetroHealth, a public system, receives about 2% of its budget from Cuyahoga County.
The investment is part of MetroHealth's ongoing work to address social determinants of health. The system recently raised the minimum wage for employees to $15 an hour and has a high school on its campus.
The center, which will be called the Institute for HOPE (Health, Opportunity, Partnership and Empowerment), is scheduled to open sometime in 2020 on MetroHealth's main campus.
The institute is intended to create a "communitywide approach" to address social determinants of health that is currently missing at MetroHealth, Boutros said. The offerings at the center, which are still being solidified, will be available to all community residents and free depending on the service. The possible services at the center include a grocery store, legal counseling, financial literacy training, a food pantry and a workforce development center. Boutros said MetroHealth is currently in talks with major grocery chains to build a site at the center and plans to partner with Cuyahoga Community College on the workforce development center.
MetroHealth intends to track the center's impact by following how outcome measures and costs change over the years at the system, said Dr. Nabil Chehade, chief population health officer at MetroHealth. It also plans to publicize the results.
"Part of what we are doing is trying to prove that these interventions lead to better outcomes and lower total cost of care," Chehade said.
The center would be a unique offering in the industry, with most health systems addressing social risk factors by referring patients to social services already available in the community. Most health system leaders argue they can't make investments that directly offer social services because the fee-for-service payment system doesn't support it.
Boutros said MetroHealth's investment in social determinants is supported by its ongoing movement to risk-based payment contracts. The hope is that fewer patients will use inpatient care and emergency room services as a result of these investments, which will help MetroHealth do better on the contracts, he said.
In addition to the institute, MetroHealth announced it is building 250 new apartments for residents in three new buildings either on or near MetroHealth's main campus. The apartments will be available to residents who earn 30% to 80% of the area's median income, which is $20,160 to $53,300 a year for a family of three.
MetroHealth partnered with not-for-profit Metro West Community Development Organization for low-income housing tax credits, which will help fund the affordable housing apartments.
In response to criticism that healthcare delivery organizations lack the expertise to provide housing, Chehade said, "We know that lack of such things has a tremendous negative impact on the health outcomes for our patients and community … We believe it's important for us to be involved and we look at it from the lens of health and health outcomes."