MetroHealth’s Caring Closet Offers Discharge with Dignity
Sometimes, the simplest acts of kindness can have the most profound impact.
For proof, look no further than the Caring Closet located just off MetroHealth’s Emergency Department on Main Campus.
Inside are shelves neatly stacked with hoodies, sweatpants, socks, underwear and other nondescript clothing. The items are utterly mundane – but for people who have just survived the most traumatic event of their lives, represent a tiny first step in regaining some independence and dignity.
The clothing is the result of a unique volunteer project by the Community of St. Peter, a church on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood. The organizers hope other religious institutions around the region will join in providing much-needed clothing to people leaving MetroHealth after a car crash, shooting or other traumatic event.
“We all know about love thy neighbor,” said Bob Kloos, pastor at St. Peter. “What is more of an expression of that than giving your neighbor some new underwear and putting dry socks on their feet?”
The roots of the program start with Marie Dietrich, a retired physician who served a fellowship at MetroHealth from 1987-89 and worked at public hospitals around the country. She knew that people brought to the Emergency Department often have their clothes cut off of them. Other times their clothing is ruined by blood or, in some cases, packaged as evidence.
Marie organized a clothing drive in the winter of 2019. Parishioners at St. Peter purchased new clothing items and brought them to church, where they were sorted and organized. Similar drives followed in the summer of 2019, and a third one was completed in January 2020.
“We have about 250 families at the Community of St. Peter and so far, we have collected over 2,000 items,” Marie said. In addition to clothing, they have started buying and contributing diapers and bicycle helmets for children.
Emily Mally, the social work coordinator in the Emergency Department, picks up the items and brings them to MetroHealth.
“Emily is the pivot person who does all the collecting,” Marie said. “She is where the rubber meets the road.”
Emily said before the Caring Closet was established, discharged patients sometimes had to go home in paper suits. That hasn’t happened since the donations of new clothes started.
Emily and her team label the donated items and store them on shelves. Volunteers come in once a month to keep the items organized.
“The patients are so thankful,” Emily said. “It gives them back a bit of dignity.”
That sentiment was evident in a thank-you letter the Emergency Department social workers wrote to the Community of St. Peter last year after the second collection.
The social workers wrote: “The day after receiving your donation, we had a mother and her infant, who slipped in water and were trauma patients. Her two small children ages 3 and 5 accompanied them to the emergency department. The 5-year-old was telling the social worker that he had just learned how to ride his bike and he wears his football helmet. The social worker gave the 5-year-old and the 3-year-old bike helmets. They were thrilled and so were their parents. The parents were thankful and very appreciative that the helmets were donated. They thanked the social worker many times."
It continued: “The floor social workers have started calling us for clothes when they have patients in need. A husband and wife were admitted after a house fire. Upon discharge, they had no clothes to wear. The emergency department social worker was able to provide the husband and wife a few outfits each. This helped the patients have one less worry when thinking about rebuilding their lives."
The letter concluded: “I hope you realize how helpful the donations have been. The donations might seem simple, but they mean so much to our patients, their families and our staff. It is difficult for staff to discharge patients when resources such as clothing are not available. Staff are uncomfortable sending patients home or to shelters in gowns. Most of the time, patients require more than just medical care. Basic human needs are often not met in our patient’s daily lives. By providing the patients something new and clean to wear upon discharge, the patients learn that they are more than just a medical record number in the emergency department, they are a human being with dignity.”
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.