February 28, 2019 – The Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) has approved Nevada County Behavioral Health’s Innovation proposal for the Homeless Outreach and Medical Engagement (HOME) Team. The HOME Team Innovation proposal aims to address Nevada County’s chronically homeless population.
During the meeting, MHSOAC Chair Khatera Tamplen commented, “This is really exciting because Nevada County has, in my opinion, a really awesome proposal… I wish the mental health system was like this to begin with, but we’re not there yet so this is innovative.”
Another Commissioner commented that the proposal is a great example of a community coming together, stating, “You may be a small community, but you’re mighty in terms of this proposal.”
The HOME Team Project
Throughout the creation of the HOME Team proposal, Behavioral Health engaged community stakeholders and held a focus group with about 50 guests at a local homeless shelter, who identified a need for outreach to this population through community partnerships, providing assistance for physical health needs first and having low-barrier housing available. The HOME Team will include a Nurse, Personal Services Coordinator, and Peer Specialist to identify physical health, mental health, and substance use disorder needs in a welcoming manner. The team will meet with individuals who are experiencing chronic homelessness at locations in the community where they are living.
In addition to field-based outreach, the HOME team will also work closely with key partners such as the hospital, homeless shelter, law enforcement, and jail. To create a positive and measurable reduction in the cycle of homelessness and incarceration, the team will respond to requests from law enforcement and the jail, and engage individuals prior to arrest or incarceration to connect them with support and housing that will help get them on the path to recovery and self-sufficiency. This aligns with the County-adopted Housing First model which has dramatically decreased law enforcement, jail and hospital costs in other communities.
“Our Sheriff’s Deputies and Correctional Officers in Nevada County see firsthand the people with mental illness and substance use disorder who have become homeless and often are cycling in and out of the criminal justice system,” said Nevada County Sheriff Shannan Moon. “This project will provide an opportunity for service providers to create the trust needed to engage these individuals with much needed treatment and services. Additionally, this project aligns with our County’s Stepping Up Initiative to lower the number of individuals suffering from mental illness in our jail. The HOME team will collaborate to improve the warm handoff and supportive services available to those who would otherwise exit our County jail into homelessness.”
The HOME team will be able to make referrals to low barrier master-leased housing units, without the preconditions of traditional County Behavioral Health services. The units will likely be located in proximity to services and amenities in Western County.
There will be a minimum of 12 master-leased units funded through the HOME Team project, with a ramp-up period built in to the first year to allow for the location and acquisition of the units. These units will be supported by a housing Personal Services Coordinator who will provide a continuum of services and support as these individuals enter housing, including strategies for maintaining housing stability and linkage to benefits and other services such as substance use and behavioral health treatment, as applicable.
Board Priority on Homelessness
Today’s approval by the MHSOAC aligns with the Nevada County Board of Supervisors’ Board Priority on homelessness. The Board approved Nevada County Health and Human Services’ plan to increase the supply of low barrier “Housing First” units within the community and an increased focus on outreach and engagement for homeless residents who are difficult to reach.
“The HOME team project will bring extra outreach, coordination and services to one of our hardest to reach populations, our chronically homeless,” says District 1 Supervisor Heidi Hall. “I am really happy to see projects like the HOME team and Brunswick Commons Resource Center moving forward to bring these much needed services to our homeless residents. Today’s approval from the State Commission shows that our programs are heading in the right direction.”
The MHSOAC approved an Innovation budget of $2,395,892 over the 5-year project period to implement the HOME Team project. If the program proves successful after those 5 years, Nevada County Behavioral Health may sustain the program through another MHSA funding component, Medi-Cal billing and/or Drug Medi-Cal billing, housing vouchers, No Place Like Home, and/or collaboration with local partners.
The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), otherwise known as Proposition 63, is a funding stream generated from a one percent income tax on personal income over $1 million in California that is allocated to counties for a variety of mental health services. The MHSOAC controls funding approval for the Innovation component of MHSA funding, which is 5% of the total MHSA allocation, and is set aside for innovative programs of limited duration.