The Benefits of an Address to Call Home for LVHN Street Medicine Patients
Through the combined efforts of Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) Street Medicine program, LVHN’s Courier Services and the United States Postal Service, Street Medicine patients now can receive mail at a specially created address at LVHN.
Mail can now be separated and couriered to the Street Medicine office and distributed by the administrative coordinator at designated clinics. Patients requiring the mail service sign a contract and agree to follow the designated protocol.
“Without a home or family support, LVHN Street Medicine patients without a street address cannot receive most government benefits that will help them out of their current situation,” says Nani Cuadrado, program director for LVHN Street Medicine. “A street address is needed to obtain Medicaid/Medicare, identification, food stamps, social security and veteran benefits, government-issued phones, and to obtain employment. Providing a mailing address to our patients is a win-win opportunity. Our patients get more holistic care, addressing not only their health care needs, but their social barriers as well.”
Cuadrado says the LVHN network benefits because patients who were previously uninsured (due to lack of an address) are now insured and the hospital, in turn, receives reimbursements.
Before Street Medicine’s intervention, 24 percent of the program’s patients had Medicaid. By 2017, almost 85 percent of LVHN’s patients were enrolled in Medicaid. Those who weren’t staying in a shelter or had no friends or family support (to use their street address), utilized one of three places in the Lehigh Valley for a street address to receive their benefits—St. Paul’s Church at 8th and Walnut streets in Allentown; the Lehigh County Conference of Churches at 10th and Linden streets; or New Bethany Ministries on 4th St. in Bethlehem. With the sale of St. Paul’s Church in June 2018 and the inability to utilize its street address, Medicaid coverage has decreased from 85 percent to 64 percent for LVHN Street Medicine patients.
US Postal Service policy requires that mail addressed to patients at institutions is delivered to the institutional authorities who, in turn, deliver the mail to the addressee under the institution's rules and regulations. “Since LVHN Street Medicine, LVHN Courier Services, and the U.S. Postal Service have partnered and instituted this mail service for their patients, we have seen tremendous benefits for our patients. Some are receiving food stamps (and had been struggling with food insecurities), some are able to open a bank account (with identification), some are able to connect with family/friends with a government-issued phone, and some have even transitioned from homeless to being housed with social security income or disability benefits,” Cuadrado says. “I am so proud that LVHN is helping patients address many of their barriers. A person’s overall health is so much more than health care, it’s about looking at the person as a whole and doing the best we can to assist with other conditions that are affecting their well-being. Something as simple as a mailing address is certainly a great start.”