CLPHA and PHAs Address Mental Health Care at the National and Community Levels

Date Published: 
May 4th, 2022
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month 

8th Annual Housing Is Summit Focuses on Health and Housing

It has been shown that housing instability has an impact on a range of health issues, including mental health. At the national level, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities has brought together housing and health sectors through its pioneering Housing Is Initiative, while public housing authorities (PHAs) have served their residents and communities with partnerships and programs offering mental health care. May’s National Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness of the work that CLPHA, public housing authorities and countless organizations do every day to help those who suffer from this often-stigmatized disease.

CLPHA’s Housing Is Initiative was founded in 2015 to break down silos between the different support systems of health, education and housing, and to forge partnerships to improve life outcomes for families living in assisted housing. The 8th annual Housing Is Summit on May 18 and 19 is the preeminent gathering of housing, health and education organizations and activists. This year, the Summit is presenting several health-focused sessions that incorporate mental health components, including “Learning from Cross-Sector Partnerships to Expand Supportive Housing” and “Care Coordination: A Sustainable Approach to Addressing the Social Determinants of Health.” Register for the 8th Annual Housing Is Summit here.

In between annual Summits, Housing Is presents webinars that highlight how PHAs are approaching cross-sector work, including those that collaborate with local partners to address mental health. In April, the Housing Is Working Group held a session on the behavioral health crisis in assisted housing in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seattle Housing Authority provided best practice examples on how to serve residents facing behavioral health crises.

CLPHA is also partnering with UnitedHealthcare in the Community Catalyst program, which convenes a broad range of community stakeholders to identify and address specific health care needs of members of the community and residents of publicly assisted housing who are often difficult to reach and serve. UnitedHealthcare collaborates with CLPHA by engaging CLPHA-member PHAs, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and community-based organizations (CBOs) in their mutual commitment to serve as a catalyst to close gaps in care and address health equity challenges.

Several Community Catalyst PHA sites have chosen to focus on mental health topics. For example, Houston Housing Authority is planning to focus on social isolation, and the Detroit Housing Commission is focusing on supporting single mothers through a number of methods, including helping them access services such as health care screenings, family communication/parenting classes, and support groups.

At the community level, PHAs seek health-sector partnerships that offer mental health care. As was highlighted at the Housing Is Working Group webinar, SHA partnered with Aging and Disability Services (ADS) to support individuals living in SHA housing or with an SHA Housing Choice Voucher by providing access to health and mental health care, aging services, and activities that contribute to mental and physical well-being. ADS has 12 case managers that are assigned to SHA properties.

Public housing authorities also operate permanent supportive housing, which provides wraparound services that include mental health care for residents – a facet of these communities’ support services that is critical when working with homeless populations to keep them safely and permanently housed. PHAs approach permanent supportive housing from many different perspectives. The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency partnered with the City of Sacramento to purchase a downtown Sacramento motel that was transformed into a permanent supportive housing site for unhoused Sacramentans. The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee focused its latest permanent supportive housing efforts on veterans, who suffer from higher rates of mental illness than the average population, with six restored buildings on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home campus that offer 101 permanent supportive housing units for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Addressing mental health will always be a critical issue for CLPHA and PHAs because of its impact on housing stability for low-income individuals and families. CLPHA will continue to advocate for increased funding for mental health care services through programs such as permanent supportive housing, while the Housing Is initiative will build on its efforts to highlight the crucial connection between mental health and housing instability. 

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