Under the new leadership of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) met this month to discuss how the federal government can provide more Support for innovative state and local efforts to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness and mental health or substance use disorders.,

Mental health and substance abuse disorders are often exacerbated by the harsh realities of living without a home, and they make it harder for a person to find and maintain shelter and housing. Many shelters and temporary housing programs have sobriety requirements that lock out people struggling with addiction, leaving them with no place to go except outside.

“The evidence is clear: When you’re sick, having a safe home can give someone the security and peace of mind to focus on recovery,” said HHS Secretary Becerra, who was elected president of USICH in October. “Medicaid demonstration is one way states can improve the health of people with unsafe housing. Exemptions make it easier for health providers to reach and treat people where they are — and help them stay well. We encourage more states to apply for these flexibilities as part of a strategy to improve the health of people experiencing housing instability.

At last week’s council meeting, USICH Heard from leaders in Arizona and Colorado About their innovative approaches. For example, Denver used a social impact bond to provide housing and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness, who often use city services such as emergency rooms. the program is ER visits decreased and annual cost of services saved $6,876 per person, Arizona’s Medicaid plan to launch in October Cover up to six months of rent For those experiencing or at risk of homelessness and suffering from serious mental illness. However, securing housing vouchers for people has been a struggle, especially in Phoenix, where the waiting list for housing was closed for years until recently. as part of the All Inside Initiative Launched last year, USICH and the White House are working with local leaders In both states – Phoenix in Arizona and Denver in Colorado – to further reduce barriers to housing, vouchers, health care and other assistance for people experiencing homelessness.

Arizona’s approach is made possible because the Biden-Harris administration plans to use Medicaid to cover the short-term costs of housing to facilitate mental health and substance use treatment for people experiencing homelessness. Flexibility has been provided to about 10 states. These flexibilities – which are provided through demonstration projects under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act – are expected Improving health, reducing the need for hospital visits and institutional stays, reducing health costs and helping more people exit homelessness.

“I greatly commend the Department of Health and Human Services for raising awareness and addressing the connection between behavioral health and homelessness,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, vice president of USICH. “This is a challenging problem. I’m grateful USICH has shined a light on rural homelessness, which can sometimes look different from urban areas. No one department can do it alone, and we’re working with leaders across the administration. We welcome the opportunity to work together.”

“Lack of affordable housing is the primary cause of homelessness, and while not everyone without a home has a mental health or substance abuse disorder, many do. “We must do everything we can to ensure that people struggling with mental illness or addiction have immediate access to housing, on-demand voluntary treatment, and other needed support.” said Jeff Olivet, USICH executive director. “With housing, health care, and Other assistance to help people stay at homeHomelessness is solvable.

Medicaid has 1115 demonstration projects Just one of many visions of the Biden-Harris administration To fight homelessness, which 12% increase from January 2022 to January 2023According to point-in-time counts released in December. Just last year, the federal government helped over 424,000 move out or avoid homelessness; invested approximately half a billion dollars to address unsheltered and rural homelessness; And Foundation laid in 2023 Build more apartments than any other year on record,

Within a few months since USICH became the lead agency, HHS has taken several actions To directly address homelessness. Department New York’s 1115 demonstration project approved, On Friday, HHS and HUD Selected states for new Housing and Services Partnership Accelerator announced, which aims to help states develop or expand innovative housing-related Medicaid assistance and services for people with disabilities and older adults experiencing or at risk of homelessness. HHS Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Lakhs of prizes were awarded For two programs designed to prevent homelessness. acf New guidance issued To help communities take advantage of HUD’s Foster Youth to Independence program, which provides rental assistance and supportive services to young adults transitioning out of foster care, who are particularly vulnerable to homelessness.

For more information about USICH meetings, Click here.

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