Using Health Reform to End Homelessness: John Parvensky, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
John Parvensky in Denver
The Affordable Care Act, and the expansion of Medicaid in particular, is the secret weapon in the fight against homelessness. Between now and 2014, Medicaid will expand to cover uninsured, single, childless adults with incomes under 133% of the federal poverty standard. This expansion will cover the vast majority of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in America so that they will be able to access health coverage and overcome the financial burden of healthcare and debilitating physical and mental health problems that hinder stability.
Organizations, though, do not have to wait to take advantage of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act to serve more individuals experiencing homelessness. Already, health reform is investing significant dollars into Community Health Centers and Health Care for the Homeless Programs, and many clinical supportive housing services can receive cost-reimbursement if they become designated Federally Qualified Health Centers.
One such organization utilizing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is John Parvensky, President and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. His organization has developed over 1,400 affordable housing units around the Denver area and operates supportive housing, health care, mental health, substance abuse, and counseling programs for over 16,000 annually. Utilizing the provisions in Medicaid expansion is a vital element in serving individuals in his program.
“Medicaid is critical to our funding for integrated primary health care, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment services for homeless individuals and families through our Health Care for the Homeless program. The ability to receive cost-based reimbursement through the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) designation is vital,” notes Mr. Parvensky. This designation has allowed the clinical services once only available at their Stout Street Clinic to now be reimbursed by Medicaid within supportive housing developments and at scattered site housing.
“Our greatest success has been creating teams of clinical case managers (LCSW’s) who are eligible to bill for Medicaid services provided to residents in supportive housing and non-clinical case managers who work together to serve chronically homeless individuals.” The clinical portion of the service is reimbursed through FQHC, which is enough to cover the cost of both clinical and non-clinical staff. “Agencies need to become FQHC qualified, or team up with FQHC providers, to develop a service plan for supportive housing residents and reimbursement plan to sustain it.”
This integration of health coverage provided by Medicaid and case management is pivotal in successful supportive housing programs. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless has been able to leverage its resources and revise its service delivery to become eligible for more funding through health reform provisions and subsequently expand their supportive housing services. As Medicaid expands further in 2014, homeless service providers like Mr. Parvensky will be able to help even more individuals in supportive housing units and the chronically homeless population access holistic care.