Dignity Health Announces $282,000 Grant to Calaveras County to Protect Vulnerable Populations from COVID-19



SAN ANDREAS, CA, October 1, 2020 – Dignity Health announced a $282,000 donation to Calaveras County for continued support of Project Roomkey, a strategy to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19. Project Roomkey provides assistance to homeless community members, who have tested positive, need to isolate due to exposure, or have health issues that put them in a high risk category.

Calaveras County’s Project Roomkey aims to do more for its clients than reduce their risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19. In addition to shelter and wraparound services for homeless community members in quarantine, Project Roomkey clients receive housing focused case management. This approach helps Project Roomkey clients identify the specific barriers to housing stability that they are facing and create a plan to achieve stability. Clients receive weekly support as they work on that plan and make progress on addressing their identified barriers.
Since Project Roomkey began in April 2020, 58 community members have been served. Of those, 21 have successfully transitioned to permanent housing in that short amount of time. The funding provided by Dignity Health will allow Calaveras County to continue Project Roomkey for at least six more months.

“In Calaveras County, we’ve seen remarkable success in protecting the capacity of our local health care system by helping people experiencing homelessness to care for themselves, thus reducing unnecessary hospitalizations,” said Doug Archer, Mark Twain Medical Center president and CEO. “We know that social distancing is an effective prevention measure, but this isn’t always possible for people who don’t have a place to live. Project Roomkey has been an important tool for us to serve the needs of a vulnerable population while preserving health care resources during our current crisis. We expect to see lasting benefits for the people who participate in the program and for the county’s health system as well. If someone has a clean and safe place to live with supportive services, then they’ll have better health and will be less likely to need emergency care.”

“As part of Dignity Health, Mark Twain Medical Center has a longstanding commitment to working with others to solve community health challenges and build meaningful relationships that protect the health of our community,” said Mr. Archer. “This is who we are. Our work with Project Roomkey reflects this commitment and the values of our rural community to support each other—especially the most vulnerable among us—during times of crisis.”

“In addition to addressing the needs of some medically vulnerable community members during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also seeing people who lack stable housing address their barriers and make progress toward achieving self-sufficiency,” said Kristin Stranger, Calaveras County Health and Human Services Agency director. “Dignity Health’s generous contribution will allow Calaveras County to continue to support additional local community members like we have the following individuals and families.”

“Throughout the pandemic, sheltering in place and social distancing have been critical to minimize the spread of COVID-19 yet our community members who lack housing do not have that opportunity,” said Ashley Brand, system director for homeless health for Dignity Health and CommonSpirit Health. “Project Roomkey has created a way to respond quickly and ensure safe housing and key wrap around services are in place to help move people from unsheltered to sheltered placement. This is one among many homelessness programs in California that Dignity Health is supporting in our response to the pandemic.”

While income and budget deficit is a definite barrier for most homeless community members, it is not the only or even the most significant barrier that some have had to address. “For some clients it is a disability and the need to identify support services,” said Lee Kimball, Calaveras County Housing and Community Programs Manager. “For others, it is a broken relationship with family in need of repair. Some clients simply do not know about credit or how to build it. Others are taking on their addictions as a result of the Project Roomkey process for the first time, looking to quit smoking, addressing gambling issues, and addressing mental health or substance use disorder issues. We serve a diverse group of community members and no two have the same story.”

Project Roomkey Success Stories:

  • A young father of two preschool age boys was able to create his first household budget, set a financial goal, and find employment outside of odd jobs to achieve that goal. In addition, he was able to obtain tenant skills he lacked, including credit repair and learning how to search for housing, and was able to secure permanent housing for the first time. 

  • An older disabled chronically homeless veteran was successfully linked to permanent Veteran’s housing.

  • Three elderly clients, all living on very small social security incomes, were able to increase their Social Security incomes with the assistance of the Housing Case Manager. The Housing Case Manager also connected them to each other as roommates. They transitioned to permanent housing together.

  • A young mother raised in foster care had spent her only adult years in an abusive relationship. She expressed concern that she did not know how to make a plan to move forward. However, her time in quarantine helped her realize she needed to go a different direction in her life. Working with her Housing Case Manager, she was able to find counseling and secure permanent housing near friends and family and away from the abuser.

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About Mark Twain Medical Center
Founded in 1951, Mark Twain Medical Center is a 25-bed, Critical Access Hospital providing inpatient acute care, outpatient services and emergency services. The Medical Center’s Medical Staff represents a broad range of specialties that ensure access to high quality medical care in a rural community. In addition to being a major provider of health services, Mark Twain Medical Center is also one of the area’s largest employers. More than 300 people are employed at the hospital and its five Family Medical Centers. The Medical Center is a member of Dignity Health, the largest not-for-profit healthcare system in the nation. For more information, please visit our website at www.marktwainmedicalcenter.org. Mark Twain Medical Center is also on Facebook.


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