Creating a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit

This week CSH, in partnership with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, published Creating a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit. In the white paper CSH lays out an easy-to-follow framework for states that want to create a Medicaid benefit to pay for the services in supportive housing. The framework consists of five action steps: 1) Determine benefit eligibility criteria; 2) Define the package of services to be delivered; 3) Align the state Medicaid plan; 4) Establish a financing and reinvestment strategy; and 5) Operationalize the benefit.

The paper was written with support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA), and Washington’s Chronic Homeless Policy Academy.  The examples and data are specific to Washington, but the paper is designed to be a resource for all states.

Tedd Kelleher, Managing Director of the Housing Assistance Unit for Washington’s Department of Commerce says, “Everyone working to end chronic homelessness in their state should read Creating a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit. I read a lot of papers. This paper is unique because it is practical. It explains Medicaid for those of us in the housing world, is full of important data about housing and healthcare needs, and provides a clear framework for action.”

WLIHA has engaged hundreds of stakeholders from the homeless housing, health care, and government sectors in the effort to create a supportive housing services benefit. Michele Thomas, Policy Director for WLIHA, says, “The paper will increase knowledge among state policymakers over the coming months to further discuss how Washington can improve health and housing outcomes for people experiencing chronic homelessness while also creating efficiencies in care coordination and reducing emergency and crisis service utilization.”

The white paper also provides an introduction to Medicaid for professionals in the homeless housing field and an overview of supportive housing for those in the health care sector. MaryAnne Lindeblad, Washington State’s Medicaid Director, says, “The health care and housing sectors have a lot to learn from each other as we work to better serve people who are highly vulnerable. CSH's paper clearly lays out what supportive housing is and the important role it plays in health care service delivery for this population.”

Bill Block, Region X Administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, finds that many stakeholders in the homeless housing and services community are searching for ways to create more supportive housing. “Every conversation stumbles on the question: ‘What role can Medicaid play in the creation of supportive housing?’  Learning about Medicaid can feel overwhelming to providers and funders in the homeless system, but CSH’s paper breaks it down in a way that’s easy to understand. Their framework for implementation provides a clear and cogent structure on which we can base discussions and decisions.”

Debbie Canavan Thiele is a Senior Program Manager at CSH in Seattle, Washington.

Katy Miller is a USICH Regional Coordinator covering parts of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.

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