NEWSLETTER — Tackling Homelessness, Impacting Outcomes

Health plans go beyond the clinical setting to address housing insecurity

A safe place to live is fundamental to good health.

Through community partnerships and unique programs, nonprofit health plans are addressing housing insecurity—and creating healthier communities along the way. Our recent webinar with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council highlighted the important role local health plans play in tackling homelessness and improving health outcomes for at-risk populations.

Why focus on housing?

Unstable housing is a significant barrier to health and quality of life—and can be very difficult for a health care provider to address. Emergency departments fear discharging patients without a safe place to recover, and clinicians may lack the community connections to help patients obtain a stable living place. Fortunately, integrating supportive services with medical and behavioral health is leading to better outcomes. Interventions that prioritize getting patients into affordable housing have reduced hospital stays, lowered costs and made recovery possible.

Health plans team up to impact health outcomes

ACHP’s nonprofit, regional health plans are building houses, offering health care in affordable housing communities and fostering community partnerships to combat housing insecurity and the resulting health risks.

CareOregon in Portland teamed up with local organizations to address the local housing crisis. Together, they donated $21.5 million to build nearly 400 affordable housing units across the city. One building even includes a 24-hour care clinic. The plan also sends representatives into the community to help homeless individuals understand coverage options and check Medicare or Medicaid eligibility, coordinate care and connect with benefits such as SNAP, WIC, housing and immediate care. CareOregon is also collaborating with other service providers to stay on top of the changing needs of the local population and have the greatest impact on the health of the community.

UPMC Health Plan in Pittsburgh has teamed up with local HUD vendor Community Human Services on Cultivating Health for Success, a program serving UPMC members who are homeless and have a medical disability. Participants work with a case manager to follow a tailored health plan and through HUD are provided a safe place to live. They also receive housing and health services, such as move-in assistance and support from a mobile nurse and community health worker. In the first five years of the program, 51 of 60 enrolled members were successfully housed, resulting in an overall cost savings of $6,384 for each person.

HealthPartners in Minneapolis is providing homeless patients a safe place to recover and get back on their feet following a hospital stay. Partnering with Catholic Charities and other hospitals, HealthPartners helped fund and design a 16-bed medical respite unit at Higher Ground St. Paul shelter. Staffed with nurses, mental health professionals and community health specialists, homeless patients are provided with a peaceful and safe space to heal. And a new six-story building adjacent to the shelter will provide job training, programs for veterans and basic health care services starting in 2018. HealthPartners also supports transitional housing programs for plan members, including a short-term, residential living facility that houses more than 200 individuals and the Safe Alternatives program to help patients with mental illness find housing.

For patients who struggle with housing insecurity, the road to recovery can be much more challenging. Nonprofit health plans are improving health outcomes and quality of life in their communities by helping to tackle this public health challenge. For more information or to watch a recording of the webinar, click here.