Housing can be one of the biggest hurdles that people determined to have a Serious Mental Illness (SMI), and even those with general mental health issues, face.
According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, over 40 percent of adults experiencing homelessness self-report having a serious mental illness. Yet, having a solid, stable environment is a crucial foundation for learning how to live an independent, self-directed life.
Currently, the AHCCCS Housing Program provides housing subsidies to more than 2,800 individuals in Arizona who are determined to have SMI and who are experiencing homelessness or housing crises. In addition to housing subsidies these members receive support services such as case management, life skills training, employment supports, crisis management, substance abuse treatment, and other programs to promote success in their daily stability. These services can be tailored to provide specific supports to secure and maintain housing such as completing housing applications, finding affordable housing units, financial planning and budgeting for housing needs, coordinating move-ins, understanding lease requirements, housekeeping and cooking skills, conflict management with landlords or neighbors and connecting members to community programs and natural supports.
Traditionally, AHCCCS housing subsidies were managed by the Regional Behavioral Health Authorities, or RBHAs. The health plans were responsible for a variety of administrative duties such as managing waitlists, processing referrals, conducting tenant briefings, ensuring housing legal compliance, processing claims for accommodation related to disabilities, ensuring tenant leases are legal, determining tenant contribution to rent and subsidy amounts, ensuring fair rent rates, performing habitability inspections, paying landlords and housing providers timely, maintaining landlord relationships, reporting and processing renewals, and legal notifications.
AHCCCS recently announced a contract award to Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation and their sub-contractor HOM, Inc. to be the new AHCCCS Housing Program Administrator that oversees all of these housing functions. This single, statewide provider will standardize housing practices, reduce barriers for AHCCCS members and improve their experience, and reduce costs that will, in turn, increase the housing voucher capacity. RBHAs and the Health Plans will continue to be responsible for assessing and determining member eligibility based on mental health diagnoses and housing needs. They will also be able to focus on ensuring the delivery and integration of quality, individualized behavioral health services for members in the housing programs that are the critical element in supportive housing as a tool for reducing social risk factors related to health outcomes.
“By choosing a single statewide housing administrator, AHCCCS is prioritizing efforts to standardize and improve housing practices, reduce barriers for members, increase accountability, and most importantly, improve the housing experience as a critical resource in addressing social risk factors, especially for those persons living with mental health issues and experiencing homelessness,” Jami Snyder, director of AHCCCS, said.
Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation and its subcontractor HOM, Inc. have more than 20 years of experience providing housing administration services to various populations including those with mental health issues, people experiencing homelessness, veterans, and people with disabilities.
“Affordable, quality housing is the platform for achieving improved health and economic outcomes for individuals and families in our communities,” Charles Sullivan, president and CEO of ABC, said. “Through the centralization and standardization of housing program administration, we will drive transparency, efficiency, and cost savings to expand housing options for AHCCCS members throughout Arizona.”
Over the next several months, AHCCCS, ABC Housing, and HOM, Inc. will finalize the transition plan, transfer information from the RHBAs, and prepare for the contract effective date, Oct. 1, 2021.