BOSTON, MA (STL.News) Governor Charlie Baker announced today over $30 million for regional and statewide services including strategies to provide a pathway from homelessness to stability to recovery for individuals facing homelessness and substance use disorders. Investments include additional funding for substance use treatment, street outreach, youth substance use prevention programs and substance use treatment programs for pregnant and parenting women as well as a hospital discharge planning kit. This funding also includes a $10 million capital fund for Permanent Supportive Housing.
“Today’s announcement is a comprehensive, cross-agency plan to improve the discharge process,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are pleased to implement new federal funding through MassHealth and continue to invest in permanent supportive housing that provides long-term stability and services to help people thrive.”
“Our healthcare and shelter service providers were vigilant in their work throughout the pandemic to protect our most vulnerable populations,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We believe these new resources, technical assistance, and funding will be a gamechanger for our service providers working on behalf of our most vulnerable residents.”
$19M Housing First Initiative
The Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) is awarding $15.7 million over five years to serve 75 to 80 individuals at any given time in Lawrence, Quincy, Brockton, Holyoke, Worcester, Lowell and Springfield for low-threshold permanent housing and support services. This funding will provide low-threshold permanent housing for unaccompanied adults experiencing homelessness along with services that help people maintain their housing. Sobriety is not a requirement of accessing or maintaining housing, as this service is a Housing First model.
This initiative builds upon the Administration’s December 2020 announcement of $2 million awarded to Boston-based nonprofit organizations Commonwealth Land Trust and Victory Programs to provide housing and services for individuals experiencing homelessness. So far, 13 individuals have been placed in housing through this program. With a focus on the Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue area, this service is a Housing First model where sobriety is not a requirement for accessing or maintaining housing. To further support the Boston based Housing First program, the Administration is providing an additional $1.3 million to the City of Boston for short term stabilization services while longer term solutions are underway.
This initiative builds on the Baker-Polito Administration’s historic commitment to combatting substance use challenges. The Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget signed by Governor Baker last month invests a total of $408 million across state agencies to comprehensively address substance misuse. This represents a $72.8 million increase, or 22% over FY21 investments, to help address these challenges which were amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, the Administration and the Legislature have boosted funding by over $288 million since 2015.
“By connecting patients – and their healthcare providers – with housing and treatment resources, we can make a meaningful reduction in the number of individuals entering homelessness,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “This comprehensive plan and investment in tools, training, and technical assistance continues Massachusetts’ position as a national leader in leveraging healthcare resources to reduce homelessness.”
$3.2M for Street Outreach Program in Boston
The Executive Office of Health and Human Service and the Department of Public Health have awarded $3.2 million to Pine Street Inn in Boston to engage people experiencing homelessness and provide access to services and supports, including for substance use treatment, primary health care, sheltering/housing search, and overdose prevention.
This program is providing targeted outreach and engagement to unsheltered individuals in Chinatown, Downtown Crossing, Boston Common, the Public Garden, Government Center, Haymarket, North Station, and South Station.
$10M Capital Fund for Permanent Supportive Housing
To ensure that individuals do not experience homelessness again, the Administration is committed to increasing the amount of available housing. DHCD has announced a new, $10 million capital fund for Permanent Supportive Housing with Single-Room Occupancies, and new, dedicated state housing vouchers to expand housing access for individuals experiencing homelessness. More than 100 housing vouchers will be used to increase exits from shelter into stable housing
Last week, Massachusetts announced $139 million for the production and preservation of more than 1,300 affordable housing units, including a new project in Quincy for individuals experiencing homelessness.
“Massachusetts has an incredible ecosystem of health care and service providers dedicated to supporting our most vulnerable populations. This new set of investments and tools will help providers navigate state resources and improve outcomes for patients and clients,” said Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox. “We are pleased to contribute to this cross-agency collaboration, continue financing housing for individuals experiencing homelessness and affirm our dedication to making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.”
Discharge Planning Toolkit
Boston shelter providers report that as many as one in five people entering shelters spent the prior night in a hospital or other similar facility. To address this, over the past year, and under the leadership of the Administration’s Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH),a comprehensive “Discharge Planning Toolkit” to aid hospitals in finding safe, appropriate alternatives to sending patients to shelters has been developed in collaboration with experts from the homeless and health care communities.
The toolkit includes expectations for inpatient and psychiatric hospitals, as well as health insurance plans, that incorporate housing status into the discharge conversations and improve collaboration and communication with shelters to prevent homelessness. Also included are new resources, including an online decision tool, to empower staff at hospitals and behavioral health facilities to connect patients experiencing homelessness and housing instability with housing and treatment resources. The administration has also proposed to use funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to enhance hospital discharge planning capacity.
The discharge planning initiative is part of an overall set of goals articulated in the Commonwealth’s Olmstead Plan, which included a specific strategy for EOHHS to support homelessness prevention and more effective discharge planning efforts across populations.