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Portland Business Journal: Pairing housing and health, social services produces results
Author: Elizabeth Hayes, Portland Business Journal
Posted: October 27, 2016

Read the original story in the Portland Business Journal. 

The $1.7 million Housing with Services pilot project, which brings together low-income residents with on-site health and social services, produced several favorable outcomes, according to an evaluation by Portland State University.

PSU’s Institute on Aging found that the pairing leads to an increase in preventive health care and outpatient mental health services, more hospital referrals for those who needed it and less food insecurity.

“It’s early in the process still, but it had some real positive outcomes on residents’ access to services,” said Paula Carder, an associate professor at the institute and author of the study.

She wasn’t able to determine if the project reduced costs, although Emergency Room visits did diminish a bit.

“Many of the people in the buildings have health conditions and need to go to the hospital, so keeping them out would be a bad idea,” Carder said. “It’s complicated that way. Naively, people think if we just reduce emergency department visits, everything will be better. That can’t be the primary or only goal.”

Housing with Services encompasses 11 federally subsidized independent housing properties for 1,400 low-income seniors and adults with disabilities. Community health workers and health navigators from CareOregon were brought in to help residents meet their needs, from getting them to appointments to obtaining healthy foods.

“They were really able to develop relationships and trust and were able to answer mundane questions, as well as help people figure out if what they had needed immediate attention or could wait a week,” Carder said.

The findings are based on two self-administered surveys completed by more than one third of building residents, an analysis of health service claims records during the first 10 months of the program and a database that tracked staff contacts with building residents.

Elizabeth covers health care for the Portland Business Journal. Sign up for her free daily email to keep tabs on the rapidly changing industry.