Supportive housing advocates and providers are working to ensure that affordable and supportive housing are key components in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s effort to redesign New York’s Medicaid program. The state’s Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) established an Affordable Housing Workgroup to develop recommendations on expanding access to housing for low-income individuals with medical and behavioral health issues in response to testimony from stakeholders that stable affordable housing was essential to meeting this population’s healthcare needs. In September, representatives of the Supportive Housing Network of New York, an NLIHC state coalition partner, were appointed to the workgroup along with 25 other housing providers, government administrators, and other stakeholders. The workgroup’s recommendations were approved unanimously by the MRT on December 13.
In his State of the State address in January 2010, Governor Cuomo announced an Executive Order creating the MRT, charging it with redesigning New York’s Medicaid program in order to both improve quality of care and reduce costs. The MRT’s Affordable Housing Workgroup was tasked with evaluating the current stock of supportive housing in New York and identifying ways to expand access for high-cost users of Medicaid, including unstably housed or homeless persons with behavioral and chronic health conditions. The group worked to identify barriers to increasing supportive housing development, including finding opportunities to invest additional resources.
In October, government agencies and the Network delivered presentations to the workgroup, giving an overview of supportive housing and explaining how increasing accessibility to supportive housing will help achieve the larger goals of Medicaid redesign. “More supportive housing will ultimately lead to savings for the state’s Medicaid program,” said Stephen Piasecki, the Network’s Upstate Membership Coordinator. “Many individuals in nursing homes, shelters, and institutional care would be more efficiently and better served in supportive housing.” Members of the workgroup agreed that the state must invest in an expansion of supportive housing to meet the needs of the tens of thousands of high-cost Medicaid recipients who are currently homeless.
The Affordable Housing Workgroup recommendations include developing a supportive housing development agreement with New York City and other interested localities that will create thousands of new supportive housing units targeting high-cost, high need users of Medicaid; establishing a formal mechanism to set aside a portion of Medicaid and non-Medicaid savings related to any reduction of inpatient hospital, psychiatric center, or nursing home capacity to a fund dedicated to supportive housing development; establishing workgroups to streamline the capital development process and improve housing placement and prioritization procedures; and creating mechanisms to facilitate moving stable supportive housing tenants to more independent housing. The workgroup also recommended establishing an interagency council of state agency representatives to improve coordination between agencies.
The MRT report, including the housing workgroup recommendations, was delivered to Governor Cuomo on December 31. The Affordable Housing Workgroup will continue meeting in the coming months to help guide implementation of the recommendations. Despite the fiscal and structural challenges they see ahead, the Network and its allies look forward to implementing many of the recommendations in the coming months.
“The Medicaid redesign process has provided an opportunity not only to call attention to the need for more supportive housing, but also to actually act on what we know about the central role stable and affordable housing has on health,” said Ted Houghton, Executive Director of the Network. “We appreciate Governor Cuomo providing an extraordinary opportunity to address the housing needs of vulnerable people with extremely low incomes.”
To view the Affordable Housing Workgroup’s complete report and recommendations, visit www.shnny.org/MRT-Final-Recommendations.pdf.
For more information, contact Stephen Piasecki at email@example.com.