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For good health, stable housing a cornerstone


CAPTION: Kimberly Kirkey-Soto checks in with Jared Phillips who has benefited from the Health Home Supportive Housing Program.

Program supports individuals with complex needs

Safe, stable and affordable housing is a cornerstone of good health, especially for individuals living with chronic or serious illness.

Citizen Advocates provides programmatic services at apartments designed to support people with complex health needs throughout Clinton, Franklin, Essex and St. Lawrence counties.  Each setting is designed so every individual can live as independently as possible. Currently, apartment-based housing programs serve approximately 60 individuals.

“This program promotes a ‘housing-first’ philosophy,” said Richard Brown, Associate Director of Community Supports for Citizen Advocates. “Individuals who have access to safe and stable housing are more likely to have a strong foundation to manage their health, personal finances, diet and other activities of daily living.”

When the state Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) convened in 2011, it was tasked with removing costs from the Medicaid system by taking a fresh look at how care is delivered with a specific focus on improving health outcomes for individuals. One of the key components to emerge was the “Supportive Housing Initiative” to ensure Medicaid members have proper housing, thereby providing a more stable environment promoting better access to health services and improved health outcomes.

As a result of this initiative, Citizen Advocates was awarded a five-year, $2.5 million grant in 2019 to launch and operate its Health Home Supportive Housing Program.  The term ‘Health Home’ is used to describe the coordinated effort among professionals lead by a care manager who are jointly responsible for managing the needs of individuals with complex health needs.

Since launching, one of the individuals helped by the program is Jared Phillips.  Were it not for the Health Home Supportive Housing Program, Mr. Phillips living situation would have to rely on the generosity of others by mostly “couch surfing.” In addition, his current living situation in a one-bedroom apartment has helped him become more independent and focus on making positive decisions. His outlook on life is much better.

“The program gave me a brand new start on life,” said Mr. Phillips. 

In addition to housing, Mr. Phillips has access to a broad range of supports from Citizen Advocates, including clinical services. 

In the case of the Citizen Advocates program, it supports individuals with Medicaid usage as a result of serious health issues and who were homeless or housing insecure.  By connecting them to a positive housing environment, the intent is to lower Medicaid utilization, and reduce the potential for avoidable Emergency Room usage or hospitalization.  The high-need population this program focuses on are those who have had five ER visits, or two inpatient hospital stays within a 12-month period.

“The need for housing in our region is a constant tug-of-war, which is especially true for those who are most vulnerable,” said Mr. Brown.  “The added advantage of this program is that it covers a four-county area, allowing us to widen our reach for those we can support and connect them to the services they need to stay safe, healthy and secure.”

Citizen Advocates housing counselors work with program participants to establish a lease, guide them through financial assistance, direct program funds for apartment furnishings, establish connections to safety-net programs and other services to help meet health needs and support day-to-day living.

Looking past the near future, the focus is to help each individual achieve financial stability and lessen the need for rental subsidy. Where appropriate, individuals are assisted with long-term housing subsidy support if needed.

To learn more about the program or qualifications, contact Cheryl Blanchard, Community Living Team Manager at (518) 651-2270 or click here.