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In Ohio, Medicaid is a Life Changer for People Experiencing Homelessness

A new study reveals that a large number of clients served by the supportive housing program qualify for Medicaid, and the majority of services being provided would be considered eligible for Medicaid reimbursement. 

National Church Residences has been a leader in supporting vulnerable populations since 1961. The organization expanded its focus in 2003 to provide supportive housing and services to help the homeless  rebuild their lives.

Today, National Church Residences operates six permanent supportive housing programs in Columbus, Ohio: The Commons at Grant, The Commons at Chantry, The Commons at Buckingham, The Commons at Livingston (which houses formerly homeless veterans) and The Commons at Third. It also is renovating the Imperial Hotel in Atlanta to service downtown residents needing permanent supportive housing.

“Supportive housing provides a better quality of life to the residents at a lower cost to the public,” said National Church Residences President and CEO Thomas W. Slemmer. “We see this work as an important aspect of our mission and hope to expand it to other locations.”

Exploring Medicaid as a Revenue Source in Supportive Housing

National Church Residences embraced the idea of extending the organization’s reach toward ending homelessness in their headquarters’ city of Columbus, Ohio and across the country, and subsequently commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of using Medicaid as a revenue source in their supportive housing programs.

The study examined the client population at their first property for the formerly homeless and low-income disabled, the Commons at Grant in Columbus. The findings revealed that a large number of clients served by the supportive housing program qualify for Medicaid, and the majority of services being provided would be considered eligible for Medicaid reimbursement. Behavioral services (such as assessment and referral, case management and crisis intervention) were Medicaid-eligible activities that supported overall program operation.

National Church Residences financial services division had experience with billing Medicaid in their health care facilities, but they hadn’t previously had a Medicaid contract for behavioral health care. They knew that executing a Medicaid contract and creating the infrastructure necessary for Medicaid billing and regulatory compliance was complex.

The process for becoming a Medicaid-eligible behavioral healthcare provider involved three very complex steps:

•   Achieve accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitative Facilities (CARF) –achieved in June 2009

•   Achieve certification as an integrated Alcohol and Other Drug/Mental Health (AOD/MH) provider from the Ohio Department of Mental Health – achieved in May 2010, and

•   Execute a contract with the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Board –achieved in January 2011 

Philanthropy has an Important Role to Play

“Enhancing operational capacity to sustain supportive services is an effective use of philanthropic resources as it can leverage federal and local funding and, more importantly, provide the needed services to help stabilize and improve quality life for formerly homeless men and women,” said Terri Donlin Huesman, director of programs for the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation.

With funding from the Foundation, National Church Residences engaged a consultant with specific experience in executing local Medicaid contracts and in establishing the necessary support systems. With the help of this consultant, National Church Residences put the Medicaid contract and billing system in place by January 2011.

These efforts were further supported with a one-time grant of $60,000 from the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health board to fund a full-time registered nurse to provide medication monitoring and basic health care services onsite during the first year of operations at the Commons at Buckingham. These services were provided National Church Residences Home & Community Services (formerly InCare).

To date, the $50,000 Osteopathic Heritage Foundation investment has helped National Church Residences leverage over $116,000 for Medicaid eligible services that include Assessment, Community Psychiatric Support Team activities, and Crisis Intervention — all to support the formerly homeless and other vulnerable populations during the first year of Medicaid billing.

Putting the pieces of the funding puzzle together with help from multiple sources — both public and private — is critical to sustaining National Church Residences’ robust service plan that is necessary for supportive housing. These supportive services are key to helping residents stabilize, maintain housing and effect lifestyle change for the better.

Mike Bell is a formerly homeless resident of the Commons at Livingston. “It has been a lot of help to me. It’s given me a chance to stabilize myself, to get my footing again, so I can begin to make good steps in my life,” says Bell.


Terri Donlin Huesman is the Director of Programs at Osteopathic Heritage Foundation.

Karen Twinem, National Church Residences.  Colleen Bain is the Vice President of Supportive Housing at National Church Residences.

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