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Smith, Vitale Bill to Expand Hospital Services for Homeless Populations Clears Committee

Trenton – In an effort to assist local homeless populations, Senator Bob Smith and Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chair Senator Joseph Vitale sponsored a bill to allow hospitals to construct or rehabilitate housing and expand services for those suffering from homelessness or housing insecurity. The bill, S-1676, cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 6-0.

“Nationwide, hospitals are increasingly turning to a housing provision in order to combat the high costs that come with treating individuals suffering from chronic homelessness,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “Oftentimes, hospitals do not discharge homeless patients if they have nowhere to go, causing them to occupy beds for an extended period of time. This is why it is important we are able to ensure our homeless population has a safe place to turn to after treatment, without depleting revenue and resources that could go towards helping other patients.”

“Recently, New Jersey Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield implemented a pilot program for this legislation and saw an impressive reduction in emergency-room visits and hospital readmissions for the homeless population,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “If passed and signed into law, this bill will lessen the burden on hospitals to provide safe housing for their homeless patients and help them remain healthy past their hospital stay.”

If they choose to do so, hospitals will be authorized to build or rehabilitate housing and wrap-around services that the homeless and housing insecure may use. These services may include referrals to outpatient primary care and behavioral health care, and access to appropriate social services such as employment and childcare assistance. Non-profits and other organizations would work with hospitals in order to deliver these services.