In a few years, Detroiters with limited insurance coverage can access free medical rehabilitation care through a $10 million donation from the Gilbert Family Foundation.
The gift is part of a $375 million investment in the expansion of Henry Ford Health’s New Center campus, including a 72-bed inpatient rehabilitation facility and a research lab that will work to find a cure for neurofibromatosis. Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, billionaire founders of the philanthropic organization, said their family’s own health struggles inspired the large donation – Dan is recovering from a stroke he suffered in 2019 and their son Nick died in May after living 26 years with NF1, which causes tumors to grow on nerve pathways.
“I recognize that our family has been privileged to have access to the best care possible,” Jennifer said. “This isn’t the reality for most Detroiters. We believed that the people of Detroit deserve better, so we decided to build something better.”
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The $10 million fund is available for residents who are below 400% of the federal poverty line, which equates to a family of four living on a maximum of $120,000 or $78,880 for a two-person household. It will help cover costs for those recovering from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and other conditions.
Rehabilitation care will be offered at Henry Ford Health, inside what Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Adnan Munkarah described as a hospital within a hospital. The top three floors of a planned patient tower will house the Shriley Ryan AbilityLab, a rehabilitation facility that will provide inpatient care. The $10 million fund won’t be available until the facility opens in 2029.
Construction for the rehabilitation facility will cost $179 million, with $119 million coming from the
Gilbert Family Foundation and $60 million being financed by Henry Ford Health. It’s part of a larger $2.5 billion plan to reshape the hospital’s New Center campus into a walkable neighborhood with new medical facilities, housing units and public amenities.
City Council President Mary Sheffield said research by Wayne State University shows Detroiters have a higher mortality rate compared to the rest of the state, which highlights a critical need to invest in improving health care access for residents.
“The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab will provide residents with access to cutting edge treatments, therapies enabling them to recover, heal and regain their independence,” Sheffield said. “With any opportunity, what really matters is the actual accessibility of the opportunity. Bringing the state of the art rehabilitation facility is great for our city, but what makes today’s announcement so transformative is the gracious and generous $10 million endowment from the Gilbert Family Foundation.”
Dan Gilbert said he sought out the best care in the country after his 2019 stroke, which landed him at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Gilbert said he saw other patients who did not receive all the care they needed because their insurance provider capped the number of hours covered.
“We believe that every Detroiter should be able to access the best health care and benefit from the most promising medical research,” Gilbert said.
Laura Grannemann, executive director of the Gilbert Family Foundation, said it’s unclear how many Detroiters will be served by the fund, because the costs of care can greatly vary. Grannemann said the fund seeks to target residents between 200% and 400% of the poverty line because families under 200% typically have more access to financial assistance.
Henry Ford Health officials said Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s expertise will be brought to its other sites in 2024, including inpatient rehabilitation facilities in Macomb and Wyandotte hospitals.
The Gilbert Family Foundation’s donation will also help Henry Ford Health create the Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute in partnership with Michigan State University. Researchers will work to develop a cure for the genetic disease, which can cause non-cancerous tumors to grow in the brain or on the spinal cord, sometimes resulting in significant physical deformities and other health issues.
That facility is expected to open in 2027 and is the first of its kind solely dedicated to neurofibromatosis research. The Gilbert Family Foundation committed $50 million to the project, along with $190 million over the next 10 years to support operations and research.