Is Housing Good Medicine for States?

Recent media reports have featured chronically homeless individuals who have improved their health and reduced their emergency department use thanks to one intervention:supportive housing. According to one federal agency, supportive housing is “an approach to subsidized housing that provides voluntary services for people with disabilities and chronic conditions to promote long-term stability, recovery and improved health.”

Some state policymakers are exploring the potential of supportive housing to reduce costs and improve the health of their homeless populations. Assisted by recent federal guidance, states are leveraging a variety of funding streams to pay for housing services and supports, including federal health care reform initiatives, Medicaid waivers, and private investment.

As states take increasingly innovative approaches to housing and health care, a number of questions arise: What do states need in order to explore housing services as a means to improving health and lowering costs for certain populations? Which funding streams are states leveraging, and what do they pay for? What will Medicaid pay for? How can states tailor their health and housing efforts to their state-specific circumstances?

To help states navigate these questions, NASHP’s State Refor(u)m offers the following resources:

  • A national webinar, September 14, 2015, at 12:30pm EDT, featuring state officials from Texas and Oregon discussing their efforts to meet the housing and health needs of their homeless populations. Peggy Bailey, a national expert on supportive housing, will offer an overview of efforts to house and support vulnerable populations across the country. The panelists will explore the financing mechanisms, data infrastructure, and strategic partnerships needed to facilitate the blending of health care and housing funding streams. Click here to register for the webinar.
  • A new NASHP State Refor(u)m chart of state strategies to support health through housing services looks at initiatives in 10 states. The chart identifies the initiatives’ funding mechanisms, covered services, target populations, and strategic partnerships. Links to state and federal documents, program descriptions, and other sources provide additional information. Special thanks to the Corporation for Supportive Housing, whose resources on Medicaid and housing were invaluable.

As more states view housing as integral to a culture of health, it will become even more important to share best practices and evidence of what works in other states. To that end, watch for additional NASHP projects on health and housing, as we bring our cross-agency Medicaid, public health, and behavioral health policy experience to bear on the pressing issues of health care and homelessness.

On October 19, 2015, NASHP convened a pre-conference meeting, “Improving Health, Lowering Costs: Translating Population Health into Effective State Policy,” supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Materials from the pre-conference, which took an in-depth look at housing and other population health issues, are available here.

The preconference preceded the 28th Annual NASHP State Health Policy Conference,which featured a breakfast plenary with Douglas Jutte, MD, MPH, from the Build Healthy Places Network. The plenary explored efforts to integrate state health policy with housing and social supports to more fully address the social determinants of health. Click here for the conference agenda and materials.