A Mixed Methods Evaluation of Interventions to Meet the Requirements of California Senate Bill 1152 in the Emergency Departments of a Public Hospital System

Early View Original Scholarship State Health Policy Health Inequities

Policy Points:

  • Clarifications to Senate Bill (SB) 1152 are necessary to address the differences between inpatient and emergency department (ED) discharge processes, determine how frequently an ED must deliver the SB 1152 bundle of services to a single patient, and establish expectations for compliance during off-hours when social services are unavailable.
  • Because homelessness cannot be resolved in a single ED visit, the state should provide funding to support housing-focused case workers that will follow patients experiencing homelessness (PEH) through the transition from temporary shelters to permanent supportive housing. Medi-Cal could fund the delivery of the SB 1152 bundle of services to defray the costs to public hospitals that provide care for high numbers of PEH.
  • California legislators should consider complementary legislation to increase funding for shelters so that sufficient capacity is available to accept PEH from EDs and hospitals, and to fund alternative strategies to prevent poverty and the upstream root causes of homelessness itself.

Context: Prompted by stories of “patient dumping,” California enacted Senate Bill (SB) 1152, which mandates that hospitals offer patients experiencing homelessness (PEH) a set of resources at discharge to ensure safety and prevent dumping.

Methods: To evaluate interventions to meet the requirements of SB 1152 across three emergency departments (EDs) of a Los Angeles County public hospital system with a combined annual census of 260,000 visits, we used an explanatory sequential mixed methods approach, focusing first on quantitative evaluation and then using information from qualitative interviews to explain the quantitative findings.

Findings: In total, 2.9% (1,515/52,607) of encounters involved PEH. Documentation of compliance with the eight required components of SB 1152 was low, ranging from 9.0% to 33.9%. Twenty-five provider interviews confirmed support for providing assistance to PEH in the ED, but the participants described barriers to compliance, including challenges in implementing universal screening for homelessness, incongruity of the requirements with the ED setting, the complexity of the patients, and the limitations of SB 1152 as a health policy.

Conclusions: Despite operationalizing universal screening for homelessness, we found poor compliance with SB 1152 and identified multiple barriers to implementation.

Keywords: emergency department, homelessness, health policy, SB 1152, social emergency medicine.

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Citation:
Taira, BR, Kim, H, Prodigue, KT, Gutierrez-Palominos, L, Aleman, A, Steinberg, L, Tchakalian, G, Yadav, K, and Tucker-Seeley, R. A Mixed Methods Evaluation of Interventions to Meet the Requirements of California Senate Bill 1152 in the Emergency Departments of a Public Hospital System. Milbank Q. March 22, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0009.12563