New reports highlight opportunity for reducing homelessness, associated health care costs

Helena, Mont. – New reports released today are designed to help Montana take advantage of opportunities to cost-effectively improve health outcomes for homeless individuals with complex medical conditions by housing and assisting them in their communities. The reports specifically focus on Montana’s Medicaid program and recommend ways to strengthen the state’s benefit package as it relates to homelessness, detailing the business case for doing so. The reports were conducted by the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and commissioned by the Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHCF) and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

“Homelessness can contribute to poor health and high use of costly emergency services.” said MHCF CEO Dr. Aaron Wernham. “Supportive housing provides affordable housing along with wrap-around services that have been shown in multiple studies to help improve health and criminal justice outcomes and reduce the associated costs.”

The reports focus on the numerous potential benefits that could be realized by providing supportive housing services to the 187 Medicaid beneficiaries currently identified as being homeless and in the top cost decile for Medicaid expenditures.

The reports found the DPHHS Medicaid State Plan currently includes reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for many of the services that are provided as part of supportive housing, but there is room for improvement.

For example, coverage for supportive housing services is not currently available for homeless individuals with a substance use disorder as their primary diagnosis, individuals who have a behavioral health condition who are not yet diagnosed, pregnant women, or high utilizers of health care services who are experiencing homelessness.

“DPHHS is dedicated to addressing homelessness in our state, and these reports provide thoughtful analysis of where improvements could be made going forward,” said DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan. “We are excited to be part of this important discussion to find long term solutions.”

Hogan said the topic overall is multifaceted and the agency she oversees has worked to address the needs of Montanans from various angles that target specific populations. These efforts focus on helping Medicaid recipients live independently and outside of institutional care with the goal of helping them achieve and maintain a good quality of life. “Our goal with supportive housing is the same,” Hogan said. “We know that some of the individuals we serve struggle with homelessness and we’re committed to working with our partners to make a difference.”

Acting on the findings in these reports, DPHHS applied for and was accepted to participate in a CMS “Innovation Accelerator Program.” Through technical assistance, this program helps states design supportive housing benefits and align policies across Medicaid and housing programs to improve outcomes and efficiency. DPHHS has assembled a group of partners that will work together for the duration of this project, including the Department of Commerce, Montana Continuum of Care, and MHCF. Participation in this program provides a direct path to allow DPHHS to design and implement innovations in the supportive services benefit package that will improve health outcomes and help contain costs.

Both CSH reports, “Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Crosswalk” and “The Montana Business Case for a Supportive Housing Services Benefit,” are available on the MHCF website: https://mthcf.org/resources/

About the Montana Healthcare Foundation
The Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHCF) makes strategic investments to improve the health and well-being of all Montanans. Created in 2013, MHCF has approximately $170 million in assets making it Montana’s largest health-focused, private foundation. MHCF contributes to a measurably healthier state by supporting access to quality and affordable health services, conducting evidence-driven research and analysis, and addressing the upstream influences on health and illness. To learn more about the Foundation and its focus areas, please visit www.mthcf.org.

About the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) seeks to promote and protect the health, well-being, and self-sufficiency of all Montanans. DPHHS’s efforts to serve Montanans are extensive and diverse, and include: providing care and services to people with developmental disabilities; funding the treatment of adults and children with mental health and/or substance abuse issues; determining eligibility of people for benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid; protecting children from abuse and neglect; and protecting and working to improve the health of all Montanans through various public health programs. To learn more about DPHHS, go to dphhs.mt.gov.

About the Corporation for Supportive Housing
The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) is the national champion for supportive housing, demonstrating its potential to improve the lives of very vulnerable individuals and families by helping communities create over 335,000 real homes for people who desperately need them. CSH funding, expertise and advocacy have provided nearly $1 billion in direct loans and grants for supportive housing across the country. Building on nearly 30 years of success developing multi and cross-sector partnerships, CSH engages broader systems to fully invest in solutions that drive equity, help people thrive, and harness data to generate concrete and sustainable results. By aligning affordable housing with services and other sectors, CSH helps communities move away from crisis, optimize their public resources, and ensure a better future for everyone. Visit us at www.csh.org.

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