HARTFORD – Governor Ned Lamont announced that his administration has received federal approval to combine Medicaid health coverage with a range of housing services for Connecticut residents struggling with homelessness and chronic health conditions.
The CHESS initiative – short for Connecticut Housing Engagement and Support Services – will pool the efforts of state agencies and nonprofit partners to provide coordinated health care and housing support for people with mental disorders , drug addiction and other serious health problems.
“For the first time, resources from Connecticut’s nationally recognized Medicaid program will strengthen our ongoing initiatives in the areas of housing and homelessness prevention,” said Governor Lamont. “Also known as the HUSKY Health program, Medicaid will add a crucial dimension to our ability not only to stabilize a person’s housing situation, but to truly improve the quality of their health and life.”
Connecticut Medicaid’s CHESS benefit is one of the first of its kind to receive federal approval, joining Arkansas, California, Minnesota and North Dakota. It will combine the coordinated access network and housing subsidy programs administered by the state Department of Housing; supportive housing programs administered by the State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Money Follows the Person program administered by the State Department of Human Services, the state agency administering Medicaid).
CHESS aims to manage the challenges that are often part of homelessness, including accessing health care and managing chronic health conditions, with the overall goal of promoting health and well-being by coordinating care targeted health care with housing.
“Put simply, we know that housing instability and serious health problems are often linked,” said DSS Commissioner Deidre Gifford, who is also the governor’s senior adviser on health and social services. “The new Medicaid delivery offers a flexible set of services to help people find and maintain housing, and coordinate medical and behavioral health services, chronic disease management and wellness education.
“With CHESS, our public-private partnership aims to reduce homelessness and unnecessary hospitalizations, while making lasting improvements to the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents. The COVID-19 pandemic has also taught us more about the close relationship between safe and stable housing and health. “
Housing grants for CHESS registrants, administered by the Department of Housing, will be given priority for applicants who meet Medicaid program requirements and are subject to separate eligibility requirements.
“We are proud to be part of this collaborative effort,” said Housing Ministry Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno. “Our goal is to reduce and end homelessness in Connecticut. The CHESS program brings additional resources to our homeless service system, enabling it to provide necessary support services to vulnerable residents and to maintain stable housing in our communities.
“Connecticut’s nonprofit supportive housing providers have a tremendous amount of knowledge and years of experience serving people with complex needs and a long history of unstable housing,” said the Acting Commissioner of Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Nancy Navarretta. “I am confident that the evidence-based supportive housing model that will be made available to CHESS participants will contribute to our collaborative efforts to make homelessness rare, brief and unique.
“The recent federal approval of Connecticut’s innovative CHESS Medicaid delivery will lay the groundwork for deeper engagement with our health system partners in efforts to end homelessness in our state,” said Sonya Jelks, State Director of the Corporation for Supportive Housing. “This pioneering approach, one of the first in the country, will provide a new source of sustainable funding for essential support services that are essential to successfully support people experiencing chronic homelessness.
“The Corporation for Supportive Housing is proud to have been a partner in the development and design of the CHESS approach and looks forward to continuing to collaborate to build on Connecticut’s success in supportive housing, by linking services, including housing benefits and health care, to permanent housing solutions. “
With federal approval to use Medicaid funding for CHESS, the Department of Social Services opened for applications at www.CTCHESSDSS.com. Application information is also available by calling 1-888-992-8637 or 2-1-1.
As a new benefit to be evaluated by the UConn Center on Aging, it is currently estimated that CHESS will serve 150 participants in the next fiscal year. The joint state-federal initiative was designed by a collaboration of the Department of Social Services, Department of Housing, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Department of Developmental Services, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the Strong Communities Partnership and the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
CHESS provides supportive housing benefits under Medicaid, in coordination with Medicaid services and non-Medicaid housing grants. Housing engagement and support services covered by Medicaid include chronic disease management and wellness education, in addition to pre-rental supports (assistance in finding and securing housing). ); rental maintenance support (help to maintain a successful rental); and non-urgent medical transport. CHESS staff will help participants apply for housing assistance vouchers.
“We are particularly proud of the strong and enthusiastic partnership that drives the CHESS initiative forward,” said Commissioner Gifford. “It builds on cutting-edge work in state government and the private non-profit community as we focus on the so-called social determinants of health. In this case, the focus is on the home range of housing and on the link between lack of stability and chronic disease and, alternatively, well-being.
The Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership, through Beacon Health Options, will provide an eligibility assessment and service authorization. Federal support is provided by the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, which are part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the Department of Health and Human Services.