This hospital is giving free housing to frequent ER patients

It costs Chicago-based University of Illinois Hospital $3,000 per day to care for patients who frequently visit the emergency room. But through a new pilot program, the hospital has whittled that cost down to approximately $33 per day.

How did the hospital do it? It started paying for apartments for so-called "superutilizers" — patients with mental health, medical and homelessness issues who stop by the ER regularly — according to NPR. Instead of paying $3,000 a day for these patients to visit the ER, the hospital pays $1,000 a month for them to live in an apartment.

University of Illinois Hospital has invested $250,000 in the program, which it runs in conjunction with Chicago-based Center for Housing and Health. Through the pilot, 25 patients have been able to get an apartment and a case manager.

Among them is 44-year-old Glenn Baker, who suffers from asthma and other chronic issues. Before the program, Mr. Baker, who was homeless, spent approximately 20 nights each month bouncing from hospital to hospital and looking to get a warm place to sleep.

The program's results thus far are positive, and officials say they hope to keep it running. University of Illinois Hospital's healthcare costs for 15 of the program participants are down 75 percent.

"I think this is a program that is a win, win, win for everybody involved," said the hospital's CEO, Avijit Ghosh, PhD. "Glenn wins, other patients who are in that same situation win, the hospital wins ... and I think society and the state win by the cost savings."

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