Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), an academic community health system serving Cambridge, Somerville and Boston’s metro-north region, has developed an innovative partnership with health and human services organization Vinfen to provide comprehensive housing support to patients in need. The program aims to help certain members of the Tufts-CHA MassHealth Accountable Care Organization (ACO) plan who have chronic medical or behavioral health conditions and who are experiencing housing instability or homelessness.
Each year, millions of American households face “housing insecurity,” a condition that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is no single definition of housing insecurity, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services bases it on a number of key factors – trouble paying rent, overcrowding, moving frequently, staying with relatives or spending the bulk of household income on housing. HealthyPeople.gov notes that housing instability is a key social determinant of health and numerous studies have shown these conditions to be barriers to physical health and access to health care.
The new CHA-Vinfen program includes housing navigation and related supports to help people access and maintain safe housing. This includes people who are un-housed as well as those at-risk of losing their housing. Key components include pre-housing support, work to prevent evictions and improving the safety of current housing through home modifications.
“CHA strives to meet patients where they are and support their needs,” said Dr. David Elvin, CHA’s Vice President for Population Health Management. “Over time, we have developed a greater understanding of the social factors that impact health and have expanded the traditional scope of healthcare providers. As stable and safe housing are so vital to health and wellbeing, we are excited to implement this new program. Rather than treat symptoms, this lets us support health at its foundations and help our patients thrive.”
Bruce Bird, President and CEO of Vinfen said: “Vinfen is pleased to partner with CHA on this important program. We share the belief that addressing housing instability will result in better health for the people we are serving in this unique partnership. We have seen firsthand the dramatic impact of homelessness and the threat of eviction on the physical and mental health of people in our communities and are looking forward to addressing this crisis.”
The CHA-Vinfen housing pilot helps certain members of the CHA MassHealth ACO plan (Tufts Health Together with CHA) and their families that meet specific criteria using Flexible Services Program funds. The Flexible Services Program (FSP) is part of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ MassHealth Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program. The Flexible Services Program offers MassHealth ACOs time-limited funding to pilot evidence-based approaches that address a member’s health-related social needs with the goal of improving health outcomes and reducing the total cost of health care for the member.