BALTIMORE — For nearly 60 years, Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland has been helping reduce food insecurity for people across the state. This year, they are taking their care to the next level, teaming up with Johns Hopkins Bayview to extend their services. It's called 'Together in Care' and the goal is to secure more funding for MOW while helping keep patients out of the hospital with more personalized care.
"We're perpetually trying to enhance the impact we have on people's lives, and we think helping folks stay healthy in their homes and stay out of the hospital is a great fit with our overall mission," said Nick Kirley, Deputy Director of Operations for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.
65-year-old Deborah Wagner from Dundalk started in the program in April after being released from Bayview.
"It's changed everything for me. I haven't fallen since I have been back home," said Wagner.
And that's huge for her because she says since November, she's been having trouble with her balance and taken quite a few bad falls around her home.
"One time I fell over, it was like a dead tree in a forest, and I was thinking, 'How am I gonna get up from this?,'" said Wagner.
As part of the program, she got a free home assessment where they installed new fixtures to prevent falls and improve her mobility. Along with the free healthy meals, MOW employees conduct daily surveys to make sure she's doing OK. Physicians also established a physical therapy routine and prescription schedule for her.
"These are a variety of things I cannot oversee or control, but they impact your health constantly. If you don't have a safe home you're gonna be in and out of the hospital," said Johns Hopkins Bayview Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos.
He says this program helps them reach the otherwise unreachable.
"The ones who need it the most because of so many barriers that exist out in the community. Unfortunately this is how we get to them. We go to them," said Galiatsatos. "This is what 21st century medicine should be, so I got involved because we need an atypical approach. We need a novel strategy to help our patients out in the community, to keep them from coming in and out of the hospital and keep you home safe and sound."
"I never imagined it would be so great. I was thinking these people would invade me. I'm not an individual anymore. There's so many people surrounding me that I never had before and now, I got a whole new family," said Wagner.
Not only does this help the patients and Johns Hopkins, but the partnership helps with the funding crisis for Meals on Wheels programs across the nation.
"We really hope that we continue to see that hospitals not only should have relationships with Meals on Wheels but should be incentivized to pay for the Meals on Wheels because it really helps the entire healthcare system as a whole," said Celia Barker, project director for Meals on Wheels America.
Right now, they have 40 people enrolled and hope to serve 100 in this first year. Currently, an intake specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview finds eligible patients, which are more than 60 years old, have a serious chronic medication condition and have recently been released from Bayview. Next year, they are launching a multi-year program to hopefully get other hospitals in the area on board and help a lot more patients.
Meals on Wheels America hopes it sets an example for other areas.
"We just hope that the success here in Maryland will show that there's a possibility of this partnership between hospitals and Meals on Wheels programs across the country," said Barker.