Investment in Permanent Supportive Housing Provides Consumer Support, Tax Savings, Universal Benefits

The DHS/DMH Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) initiative's rollout last fall is quickly proving its long-term value to Illinois consumers and taxpayers. The result of the Division's active collaboration with local and national consultants to conceptualize and develop a supportive housing model was based on research and best practices that support both consumer recovery and choice. PSH promotes community-based integrated and independent living by providing stable, affordable housing options for persons with serious mental illnesses. According to DMH Systems Rebalancing Director Brenda Hampton, the Division is positioning its model "to transform outmoded treatment assumptions and practices by bringing new resources and partners to the table to expand opportunities for more affordable housing statewide." Individuals assisted with transitioning from nursing homes in Rockford and Chicago were the first consumers in Illinois to officially receive keys to their own apartments supported by PSH.

The PSH Model

Permanent Supportive Housing means "having a home" that is safe, decent and affordable. This home must be a self-contained unit with its own bathroom and kitchenette in which the tenant has full access to privacy. PSH is either a studio or efficiency unit, a one-bedroom apartment or a two-bedroom/two person-shared apartment. No matter the unit type or style, it becomes the individual's home in which he or she holds a term lease subject to standard tenant/landlord law provisions. Mandatory treatment or services is not a precondition for eligibility to retain PSH. However, for those choosing to receive services, every effort is made to ensure that wrap around mental health and support services are appropriate, flexible, available and responsive.

PSH affordability criterion is based on the Fair Market Rent (FMR) analysis in the county where the unit/apartment is located. Under that guideline, PSH is kept financially viable for eligible consumers by one of its anchors, the Bridge Subsidy Program, which supplements a portion of the rental cost until the resident qualifies for a Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher or another rental voucher programs. Consumers who may qualify for PSH must have a household income at or below 30% of the Area Median Income and must meet one of the priority eligibility populations as defined by DMH.

Public Investment Yields Big Savings

A recent Chicago-based Heartland Alliance Mid-America Institute on Poverty investigation of supported housing programs with similar objectives suggests that PSH can save Illinois taxpayers at least $2,500 a year per resident. In comparison to the costs of non-supported housing tax-funded services, such a figure amounts to an approximate forty percent reduction in individual support dollars. These estimated savings can be attributed to the decreased use of state operated and/or supported hospitals and nursing homes, emergency rooms, local jails and other publicly supported facilities and services. A shift to greater use of preventive healthcare services should also play a significant role in cost reduction. However, no less significant in measuring the program's success is the dramatically increased self-reliance and pride of the residents.

DMH Director Dr. Lorrie Jones sums it up, "PSH is among the Division's latest examples of our ongoing and successful commitment to transforming Illinois mental health, which is in line with our vision of recovery. There is a growing body of evidence that giving mental health consumers incentives that are based on their life goals is the fastest road to recovery. It is also a highly cost-effective way of increasing opportunities for consumers to contribute to their local communities on daily basis."

Currently, the Division's PSH program has approved 133 individuals for PSH, but that number is expected to rise to approximately 250 at year's end. Get an "up close and personal" understanding of what PSH means to recovery by reading "Coming Home: the Story of Permanent Supportive Housing in Three Chapters" in this issue. Further information about the Permanent Supportive Housing program, eligibility criteria and application process, in addition to a description of the Bridge Subsidy program can be obtained at www.dhs.state.il.us.