Grant from Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust Extends Program Providing Care to Homeless People with Mental Illnesses

June 20, 2012

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has awarded its second grant to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to provide free services to homeless people with psychiatric illnesses in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

The grant of $822,870 supports an expansion of the Medical Center’s Homeless Opportunities and Treatment (HOT) Project, established in 2009 with funding from the trust.

While almost half of the homeless adults in Forsyth County report that they have a psychiatric disorder, many go without care because they cannot follow the usual process of seeking treatment, keeping appointments and maintaining medication regimens, or because they cannot afford even minimal costs. The HOT Project was designed to overcome these barriers by bringing services directly to those in need.

Samaritan Ministries, a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen, partners with doctors, mental health therapists and other members of the HOT Project team to treat patients with mental health needs at its center in downtown Winston-Salem. In the past three years, the project has provided assessments, therapy and psychiatric medications to more than 400 people. The program is open to any adult who is homeless in Forsyth County, even if the individual is not staying at a shelter but living on the streets.

The new grant will enable the HOT Project to reach more people and to address two critical needs.

A diabetes treatment and education program will respond to the disease’s prevalence among project participants, whose risks of diabetes complications are heightened by limited access to monitoring, medication and wound care, and by the ability of some antipsychotic drugs to raise blood sugar levels.

New emergency department outreach and coordination activities will target the equally urgent need to align care among local hospitals and emergency departments, so project participants can receive the ongoing support they need from the most appropriate sources.

The HOT Project is part of the Wake Forest Baptist’s effort to work with others in the community to meet health needs of the homeless. The project focuses on reaching a particularly vulnerable part of the homeless population that needs extensive medical care as well as social service support.

“Our goal was to develop a program that removes all barriers for accessing care and lets people know about the services we can offer them with the help of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust,” said Liz Arnold, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Wake Forest Baptist, who developed the HOT Project and serves as its director. “By having our clinic at the Samaritan Ministries shelter, we are able to reach more people who might not otherwise seek out mental health services in traditional settings.”

The project also is a facet of the Medical Center’s efforts to aid the homeless through the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.

“The HOT Project is an innovative approach to serving many of the hardest to serve people in our community, those with severe and persistent mental illness,” said Andrea Kurtz, director of the Ten-Year Plan. “As one of the most successful programs working with people who are homeless and have mental illness, this program is a key part of the Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. This expansion of the HOT Project’s reach and capacity will be a great asset to people in need of services.”

Jehan Benton-Clark, program officer with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, described the shelter-based psychiatric services provided through the project as a strategic approach to caring for homeless individuals.

“This effort is a great example of what can be accomplished to solve an unmet need when universities partner with the local community,” Benton-Clark said.

In addition to receiving care, HOT Project participants are provided free psychiatric medications through a collaborative effort with CenterPoint Human Services, which oversees public mental health services in Davie, Forsyth, Rockingham and Stokes counties.

“CenterPoint is proud to support HOT Project participants by providing no-cost pharmaceuticals through our Patient Assistance Program,” said Betty Taylor, CenterPoint’s chief executive officer and area director. “We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with others to offer support in addressing this community need.”

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina. Its mission is to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina. The trust’s Health Care Division promotes wellness statewide by investing in prevention and treatment while its Poor and Needy Division responds to basic life needs and invests in solutions that improve the quality of life and health for financially needy residents of Forsyth County. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., serves as sole trustee.

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Eric Whittington:, 336-716-5318