The subject of housing for persons
with mental illness is a serious discussion within the Office of
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) and throughout
the mental health community in Pennsylvania. Individuals with serious
mental illness define safe, decent, affordable housing as critical
in supporting their recovery; additionally, for numerous years the
most pressing need identified by county mental health offices in
the Annual County Mental Health Plan was adequate housing opportunities
for consumers. In response OMHSAS convened a Housing Workgroup in
April 2006, to formulate recommendations regarding the direction
that the development of housing opportunities should take, in light
of the need for affordable housing, and the move toward recovery
oriented services. OMHSAS' Housing
Initiative - Overview provides background on the office's
A Plan for Supporting Housing and Recovery-Oriented
In the fall of 2005 the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and
Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) unveiled a landmark document entitled
A Call for Change: Toward a Recovery-Oriented Mental Health
Service System for Adults. During that same time, the county
mental health offices submitted their 2005/06 Plans to OMHSAS. A
review of the plans revealed that for the second year in a row,
the county offices identified housing as one of the greatest needs
they face in serving persons with serious mental illness and co-occurring
disorders. In response to this need, the OMHSAS Adult Advisory Committee
formed a Housing Work Group to develop a set of principles, strategies
and action plans for expanding housing with recovery-oriented services
for consumers. The group was charged with developing a document
that is consistent with the guiding principles set forth in A
Call for Change and that can be used by OMHSAS and other commonwealth
agencies to set priorities and target resources, and by the county
mental health offices to address the housing needs of their consumers.
Plan for Supporting Housing and Recovery-Oriented Services
is the November 2006 report of the Housing Work Group. It addresses
housing with recovery-oriented services for all adults with serious
mental illness and co-occurring disorders.
Definition of Permanent Supportive Housing
Supportive housing is a successful, cost-effective combination
of affordable housing with services that helps people live more
stable, productive lives. Supportive housing works well for people
who face the most complex challenges—individuals and families
who have very low incomes and serious, persistent issues that may
include substance use, mental illness, and HIV/AIDS; and may also
be homeless, or at risk of homelessness.
A supportive housing unit is:
- Available to, and intended for a person or family whose head
of household is experiencing mental illness, other chronic health
conditions including substance use issues, and/or multiple barriers
to employment and housing stability; and my also be homeless or
at risk of homelessness;
- Where the tenant pays no more than 30%-50% of household income
towards rent, and ideally no more than 30%;
- Associated with a flexible array of comprehensive services,
including medical and wellness, mental health, substance use management
and recovery, vocational and employment, money management, coordinated
support (case management), life skills, household establishment,
and tenant advocacy;
- Where use of services or programs is not a condition of ongoing
- Where the tenant has a lease or similar form of occupancy agreement
and there are not limits on a person’s length of tenancy
as long as they abide by the conditions of the lease or agreement;
- Where there is a working partnership that includes ongoing
communication between supportive services providers, property
owners or managers, and/or housing subsidy programs.
Supportive Housing is:
- Safe and Secure
- Affordable to consumers
- Permanent, as long as the consumer pays the rent and honors
the conditions of the lease.
Supportive Housing is linked to support services that are:
- Optional. People are not required to participate in services
to keep their housing, although they are encouraged to use services.
- Flexible. Individualized services are vailable when the consumer
needs them, and where the consumer lives.
Financing and Funding Resources Applicable
to Housing for People With Mental Illness
With no new funds identified in the OMHSAS budget for Housing Initiatives,
a major goal of OMHSAS Housing technical assistance has been to
engage counties in working with “Housing Partners”,
through development of partnerships and participation in Local Housing
Option Teams (LHOT’s), local housing authorities, county homeless
planning activities, Department of Community and Economic Development
activities and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. OMHSAS has
compiled a list of Financing
and Funding Resources Applicable to Housing for People With
County Housing Plan Policy
A Plan for Promoting Housing and Recovery-Oriented Services,
drafted with support from consumers, providers, County MH/MR programs
and other stakeholders, provides guidance to County MH/MR Programs
for their planning, resource allocation and development of effective
supportive housing models and modernization of housing approaches.
The Plan spells out specific actions for OMHSAS, its state partners
and County MH/MR Programs for housing policy and development. Subsequently
OMHSAS has increased technical assistance to counties in Housing
Plan development, and specifically provided guidance on the allocation
of HealthChoices Reinvestment funds for supportive housing.
With these endeavors underway, OMHSAS is requiring that any county
seeking to utilize HealthChoices Reinvestment, Community Hospital
Integration Program Project (CHIPP) or Base Funds for any housing
activity, must prepare a Housing Plan utilizing the OMHSAS Housing
Plan template. All planning must identify the priority group most
in need of permanent housing by age, type of disability/need or
other designation. This priority group must include the housing
needs of persons currently being served in state psychiatric hospitals.
The Housing Plan must be reviewed and approved by OMHSAS. In addition,
every county will be required to move forward in developing a County
Housing Plan as a requirement of the 2009/2012 County Plan Guidelines.
OMHSAS has made guidelines available through the County
Housing Plan Policy.
Created under the McKinney Act, PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) is a federal grant that funds the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and four US territories to support service delivery to individuals with serious mental illnesses, as well as individuals with co-occurring substance use disorders, who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
The Commonwealth utilizes the PATH grant to partially address the need for services to individuals who are mentally ill and/or have co-occurring substance abuse disorders, and are homeless. OMHSAS contracts directly with the 24 county MH/MR program offices to provide PATH services. Many of these offices, which encompass 36 of the state’s 67 counties, sub-contract with local community providers to provide PATH services. In order to ensure program stability, once a county establishes a PATH program, or adds PATH funded services to an existing program through a competitive process, funding continues year to year as long as they comply with all the requirements. New counties and programs are awarded PATH funding through a competitive process if and when the state receives an increase in federal funding.