A newsletter featuring thoughts, art and poetry created by ShelterCare residents. Read the latest issue: Voices, July 2017
The Intersection of Housing and Health Care
I love Lane County. As the Lane County leader of the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., Kaiser Permanente, I’m excited to do everything I can to give back to the community where I was born and raised. As part of the mission of Kaiser Permanente we invest in initiatives that improve the overall health of the communities we serve. In short, I’m here to help Lane County residents thrive.
Kaiser Permanente invests a minimum of 3 percent of its annual gross operating revenue in community benefit initiatives. We organize our community benefit strategies around five focus areas: access to care, economic opportunity, chronic disease prevention and treatment, mental health and wellness, and oral health.
I am excited to be a member of the ShelterCare board of directors because I see a clear link between access to affordable housing and a chance of living a healthy life.
As a community, we understand that, for far too many of our residents, it can be a real challenge to find and retain affordable housing. People sleeping outdoors in urban settings being one of the more obvious signs, but there is also a significant population of people who live on the edge of homelessness due to the high cost of housing. Often people with the most compromised health exhibit behavior or have special needs that require a supportive landlord and neighbors, making the goal of stable housing and finding and retaining a job to pay for it even more challenging. People that have stable housing have dramatically improved health compared to those that don’t.
Why? A recent study entitled “Exploring The Intersection Between Housing and Health Care” by Bill Wright, Ph.D., Grace Li, Ph.D., Keri Vartanian, Ph.D., and Maggie Weller M.S., at the Providence Center for Health Outcomes Research and Education provides some answers.
When Medicaid-covered residents moved into one of the 145 different affordable housing properties included in this study, their health care experiences changed dramatically. Over the following year, they used more primary care, had fewer ED visits, and accumulated lower medical expenditures than in the year before they moved in. Many also reported better access to and better quality of care. The availability of integrated health services to housing residents was a key driver behind lower costs and fewer emergency department visits despite the fact that many residents did not know such services were available. This suggests there may be potential for even greater impact if awareness and use of health services were increased.
We live in a profoundly interconnected world, and we may be moving past the time when any sector can go it alone. In the emerging era of accountable care, health care systems and affordable housing providers may want to mutually consider the potential benefits of stronger cross-sector collaboration.
A few of their key findings include:
- Costs to health care systems were lower when people moved into affordable housing
- Total Medicaid expenditures went down 12 percent
- Declines in expenditures were seen for all housing types
- Primary Care visits went up after move in; emergency department visits went down
- Outpatient primary care utilization increased 20% in the year after moving in, while ED visits went down 18 percent
- Residents reported that access to care and quality of care improved after moving into affordable housing
- Integrated health services were a key driver of health outcomes
Activating our community to increase efforts to leverage the connection between housing and health benefits us all. The healthier we are as a community often translates to lower commercial insurance rates for employers and individuals by preventing the higher costs of providing emergency care to people who can’t afford to pay. This isn’t just about doing what many people consider “the right thing”, it also makes good business sense for employers and consumers who purchase health care insurance.
I love Lane County. I love being able to play any part in making this area a better, healthier place to live. I’m excited to work with ShelterCare in making that happen. Let's thrive together!
In September the 9-unit apartment building on Springfield’s Main St., known as Brethren Housing, will be torn down to make way for a new affordable housing project led by St. Vincent de Paul. The new complex will be called The Myrtlewood, and it’s scheduled for completion by October 2018.
For more than 30 years ShelterCare has partnered with the Springfield Church of the Brethren, who owns the building, to provide housing and services for people in crisis. The Brethren apartments are currently part of ShelterCare’s Supported Housing program for adults with severe and persistent mental illness.
Lizzy Cyrus is a ShelterCare QHMA (Qualified Mental Health Associate) who has been working with the Brethren apartments residents since January 2016 to explore housing options and create personalized transition plans. She says the feedback from residents has been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s a fresh start for them,” she says. “Everybody is moving forward into having a new home that matches with their life goals, and all residents are in charge of where they go.”
Lizzy also shares that many residents were pleased to find more housing options available to them now, because living at Brethren and working with ShelterCare has helped them to build a positive rental history and good tenant track record.
Dale Seese is a longtime member of the Springfield Church of the Brethren. According to Dale, developing the property has been the plan from the beginning. It took a long time to find the funding. “We were putting out feelers for many years,” he says.
The church and its nonprofit arm, Brethren Community Services (BCS), partnered with ShelterCare in 2010 to develop another property on the site, which is now the Afiya Apartments for participants in ShelterCare’s Supported Housing program.
For the Myrtlewood project, The Springfield Church of the Brethren and BCS are partnering with St. Vincent de Paul and Mainstream Housing. Nora Cronin is the project developer for St. Vincent de Paul and the lead on the project. She says the
Myrtlewood will be a four-story building with 35 one-bedroom apartments.
Eight units at The Myrtlewood will be designated for adults with developmental disabilities, and the other 27 units will be affordable housing for households at or below 50 percent of the area median income. St. Vincent de Paul will manage the property. Nora says a waiting list will be opened as the project gets closer to completion.
A new, tiered model is allowing ShelterCare to reach more people with supportive services such as Recovery Path (substance use disorder treatment) and Supported Employment.
Our goal with every participant is to provide person-centered care. Under the new model, participants can choose one service, the full complement of wraparound supports, or somewhere in between, depending on their individual needs. Participants can also easily transition between tiers as their symptoms and life circumstances change.
ShelterCare Supported Housing, which serves adults living with a serious mental illness, launched the new model in January, and is already seeing significant benefits. We are now able to offer supported services to participants in other ShelterCare programs as well as to individuals on the waiting list. For example, a resident in our Uhlhorn Program can now access Supported Employment services if she is interested in entering or re-entering the work force.
Offering services in this way allows ShelterCare participants to have more self-directed care and to choose the level of support they feel will help them find greater stability and independence.
When asked about his future, Todd P. is all smiles. “I’m working on getting a loan to start my own art business,” he says. “[My counselor/advocate] is helping me identify potential lenders.”
Since finding stable housing with ShelterCare three years ago, Todd has blossomed as an artist and maintained his sobriety—two things he struggled to do when he was living on the streets.
Todd was homeless for most of his adult life. He’s worked as a farmer, a fisher, and a mechanic, among other jobs. Though he always dabbled in art, he never thought it was something he could pursue as a career. And, he admits, his drinking was a big part of the problem. “That’s what I was, mainly, a drinker.”
Born in New York, Todd also lived and worked in New England for a bit before moving to Eugene, which has been his home for the last 20 years. During that time, Todd earned a reputation for negative behaviors such as starting fights, and he was banned from many establishments.
Then, a few years, ago, Todd became friends with a woman whose son is a ShelterCare resident. She recognized Todd’s negative behaviors as similar to those of her son’s before he got help managing his mental illness. She encouraged Todd to apply for ShelterCare services. Soon after, Todd was accepted into the Supported Housing program, which provides housing and support services for adults with severe and persistent mental illness.
Now 52, Todd says his experience with ShelterCare has been “life-changing” and that his sobriety went hand-in-hand with obtaining housing and learning to understand and manage his mental illness. He also credits his ShelterCare counselor, as well as art, for giving him the tools to begin healing psychological wounds from a difficult childhood.
“Art has been good therapy for me. I’d love to help other people with art… to be able to do [art] all day long with people like me.”