A Full House of Cards

The social experiment is now in session – teens in my own community aided by a network of volunteers providing housing food and mental health support are the first in their families to graduate high school and start college this month. The movement has mostly been at a local community or even family level but the social support bug is catching on with big companies.

Health plans are continuing to act on the link between stable housing and better health. Illinois’ leading insurer, BlueCross Blue Shield, recently invested in housing to improve the health of homeless Chicagoans by partnering with private and public funders, investing as much as $1M in the project in Chicago’s Flexible Housing Pool. The two-year grant will fund housing, paired with intensive case management services, for people who are homeless and have been frequent visitors to hospital emergency rooms. The city of Chicago aims to host 750 units of supportive housing in the future. United Healthcare so far has invested in 80 communities across 18 states, resulting in 4,500 new homes in communities that also offer a host of health care services and social services such as job training and adult education. United, which began investing in housing in 2011, had Medicaid data that showed ER use dropping 60% and cost of care 50% lower for people with access to a housing initiative.

Figuring out social determinants is making its way into the business of healthcare with new codes to help practitioners document when they spend time identifying or solving social issues (story here).

Meanwhile, in places like Hartford, Connecticut where I live the social experiment plays out in subsets of the Medicaid population. My wife’s school where I’ve helped coach since 2009 has found success using social services to support adolescent underprivileged girls stay active, healthy and manage care. That’s right, manage care. Our oldest, Kyoe Paw, who we took in before she went to high school, is now a freshman at Springfield College. Her story is in many ways a remarkable lesson in why social investment in housing, healthcare and younger vulnerable populations is so vital, but also a lesson on how to do affordably. Background on a model by clicking here.

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