St. Vincent de Paul said zeal is love on fire. “If love is fire,” he wrote, “zeal is its flame. If love is the sun, then zeal is its ray. … Charity, when it dwells in a soul, never rests. It is a fire that acts ceaselessly."
I can’t think of a better way than “love on fire” to describe the fuel that drove our founding sisters to travel West 165 years ago. They braved the unknown to serve those struggling with hardship on a rugged frontier. They built hospitals, orphanages and schools out of sticks and stones, and fortitude and faith.
And they established social services to address homelessness, poverty and hunger, long before the term “social determinants of health” came into vogue. The sisters showed us that we are all responsible for one another – that love means respecting the human dignity of every individual and recognizing that each of us is a whole person in mind, body and spirit.
Today, I am incredibly proud of the caregivers of Providence St. Joseph Health for keeping this legacy alive and continuing the Mission with zeal. One of the ways we see this passion in action is through our annual community benefit report. The 2018 edition is now available, and I encourage you to take a moment to learn how we’re serving those in need, regardless of ability to pay, and how we’re working to give everyone in our communities the chance to live the healthiest possible.
Knowing we can’t do this alone, we are forging innovative partnerships with people of goodwill in all of our communities. For example, in Orange County, Calif., we are partnering with other health systems and community leaders to build regional mental health facilities that will offer treatment, crisis units, residential programs, and substance-addiction recovery – all under one roof. Meanwhile, in Eastern Washington, our longtime partnership with Catholic Charities has helped us reduce chronic homelessness in Spokane and we’re working to expand the partnership to other cities.
In all, we invested $1.6 billion in the health of our communities last year. What’s remarkable is that we did a better job of caring for those covered by Medicaid, who tend to be sicker and often struggle with poor social conditions. By proactively managing the health of this population, we decreased our uncompensated Medicaid costs by $84 million. That made it possible to redirect those funds to other needs. For example, we provided $43 million more in charity care compared to the previous year, and we invested $30 million more in proactive community programs.
Thank you to all of our caregivers and community partners for responding to the call to serve with love. Our vision of health for a better world may seem like a big, audacious goal. But as we learned from the sisters, when we set our love on fire, anything is possible.