Housing, health care meet in innovative WA program

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Having a home is critical to a person’s health. Medicaid dollars in Washington state are helping bridge the gap between health care and housing.

Apple Health, Washington’s Medicaid program, has an initiative called Apple Health And Homes. It’s among the first in the nation to provide funds to help certain people on Medicaid find and secure housing.

Matt Christie, a supervisor with the Health Care Authority’s Foundational Community Supports program, explained the state is shifting the landscape on how to pay for housing support services.

“The innovative thing that our program did was bring Medicaid into the space of paying for support services as part of someone’s health insurance,” he said.

Apple Health and Homes is for people who qualify for the Foundational Community Supports program, including folks who are chronically homeless, have behavioral health needs or suffer from substance abuse disorder.

Foundational Community Supports has served more than 35,000 people since 2018, Christie said, and added there are a variety of reasons why health is closely linked to housing.

“If you require medication that needs specific storage, how do you maintain appointments, and even just on a really fundamental level, if you don’t have a place to sleep at night, just kind of the impact that has on your physical and mental health over time,” he continued.

Scott Tankersley, a program administrator with Foundational Community Supports, said Apple Health and Homes is about more than just finding someone housing, and added his organization follows evidence-based practices from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ensuring that people find the right community for them.

“That’s really critical to Apple Health and Homes and how we pair folks with housing of their choice – to walk forward and build a path to housing stability that’s according to someone’s choice and preference,” he said.

Featured image: Lack of housing is a critical issue in Washington state. (Kirk Fisher/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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