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Southside's medical respite center off to a slow and steady start

Posted at 4:40 PM, Jun 10, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Today marks one week since the opening of the Catholic Community Services "Casa de Respiro," a medical respite center for the homeless in south-side Tucson.

It’s a slow and steady start at Casa de Respiro. The medical respite center for the homeless has just one patient so far.

William Smith is the lead health navigator for Casa de Respiro. He says the health navigators and respite assistants at the center are eager for the number of clients to grow.

“If we did get multiple calls and multiple intakes, we’re all supporting each other here," Smith said. "We’ll take the reins in making sure needs are met, as well as the clients getting the best care as possible.”

I visited Casa de Respiro just a few days before they opened. Rhanda Mejia, program manager for Casa de Respiro, told me their intake process could take about 48 hours. Mejia says they have around three potential clients who might enter medical respite with them this week. So, I asked if that 48-hour timeline was holding true.

“So far, so good," said Mejia. "We still are learning some things. Going to pick up someone from the hospital isn’t a quick process. So, that’s something that we learned; also, to make sure we have a time block because the discharge can be a little lengthy.”

Health navigators have a referral call with future clients, allowing to share what they might need. This is to set clients up for success after finishing their stay.

“What are some of the things that they want to work on while they’re here at the center? That being housing, securing food stamps," said Smith. "SSI or even their birth certificates.”

Mejia tells me Casa de Respiro's first client didn't bring a pet with them, but they are more than ready, with help from the community, for when clients with their dogs move in.

"We've had a lot of interest after our last interview. We did get a lot of interest from people wanting to support us. I think that is gonna be really big for us. This is our first venture as a medical respite here in Tucson and then adding animals to the milieu is gonna be interesting in itself in how we do that and how we do that safely," said Mejia. "We've had a few people come in wanting to share their expertise and offer services of how they can help. So, when it happens, we'll have some support."

She also says they're looking into a sponsorship opportunity for their beds.

"We have a three-tier service agreement. Each tier is for a different type
of contact," Mejia said. "There's a contract to sponsor for a year, six months and then there's a single-service agreement where you go into a contract for up to 10 days. The pricing is different for each tier, the longer the contract the less it can be. That's what we're looking at."

The medical respite center for the homeless and their pets offers post-hospital services. 50 beds are available for patients leaving the hospital who need housing and support with aftercare. There are 36 beds for men, 10 for women and four for end-of-life care.

If you're interested in Casa de Respiro's services, you can contact them here.

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Jacqueline Aguilar is a multimedia journalist at KGUN 9. Born and raised in Yuma, AZ., she is no stranger to the unforgiving Arizona heat. Now this U of A wildcat is excited to be back in Tucson and is looking forward to involving herself in the community. Share your story ideas with Jacqueline by emailing jacqueline.aguilar@kgun9.com or connecting on Facebook, Instagram or X.