Housing Action NH, an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, is convening and educating housing stakeholders in anticipation of emerging opportunities for supportive housing for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) that will result from New Hampshire’s recent settlement of an Olmstead class action lawsuit.
The suit, Amanda D., et al. v. Hassan, et al.; United States v. New Hampshire, charged the state with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by unnecessarily institutionalizing people with SMI. Legal arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs followed precedent set by the 1999 Supreme Court ruling Olmstead v. LC, which held that unjustified institutionalization of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under Title II of the ADA. As a consequence of Olmstead, public entities are obligated to provide treatment and services to people with disabilities in the most integrated and least restrictive setting that appropriately addresses the needs of the individual. This means that many people with SMI have a right to community-based treatment and services, including housing, rather than being institutionalized.
The settlement, approved by U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe on February 12, 2014, calls for New Hampshire to:
- Increase the stock of integrated, scattered-site, permanent housing, with ongoing mental health and tenancy support services for people with SMI.
- Ensure individuals with SMI receive assistance in finding and maintaining competitive employment at integrated job sites in the community.
- Provide mobile crisis teams of trained mental health clinicians available 24 hours a day to serve individuals with SMI in a community-based context. In addition, the state will expand the network of crisis apartments where individuals experiencing a mental health crisis can stay under the supervision of crisis teams for up to seven days as an alternative to hospitalization.
- Expand the use of the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) care model, which utilizes teams of multi-disciplinary professionals available around the clock to provide wrap-around services. ACT teams enable individuals with SMI to live independently in the community. The ACT team will serve as the mobile crisis team for individuals they serve.
Housing Action NH is focusing on the supportive housing aspect of the settlement, which calls for 450 new supportive housing units in community settings for people with SMI by June 30, 2016. In addition to these 450 units, the settlement requires the state to make reasonable efforts to obtain HUD funds for 150 more units of supportive housing by June 2017. A scattered site approach must be followed, with no more than 10% of the units occupied by those with SMI in any given building.
As an initial step toward funding the requirements of the settlement, Governor Maggie Hassan (D) recently signed H.B. 1635, which appropriates more than $9 million in New Hampshire’s FY14-15 biennial budget to expand and enhance mental health service capacity in integrated community settings. The settlement is expected to have additional budget impacts and affect how certain affordable housing development funds are allocated. Thus far, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services appears to be focusing on providing state Housing Bridge Subsidy vouchers to help eligible individuals access existing housing. The state’s housing finance agency, New Hampshire Housing, has applied for Section 811 funds from HUD in order to develop permanent, subsidized, supportive housing for the SMI population.
To inform its leadership and members about how the settlement’s housing provisions may be met, Housing Action NH has enlisted expertise from the state’s Disabilities Rights Center, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, and New Hampshire Housing. Housing Action NH arranged for some of these experts to testify before a legislative commission now studying barriers to the development of affordable housing in order to ensure the broadest possible understanding of the settlement and its early implementation, as well as to set the stage for possible advocacy in the future.
The Housing Action NH website is at http://bit.ly/Y1hcse.
The Complaint is at http://bit.ly/1kzgrkb.
The Settlement Agreement is at http://bit.ly/1AbiGOu.
H.B. 1635 is at http://bit.ly/1ppxh5c.
More information about Olmstead is on page 191 of NLIHC’s 2014 Advocates’ Guide, http://bit.ly/1tePy5N.
For more information, contact Elissa Margolin, Director, Housing Action NH, at firstname.lastname@example.org.