California housing advocacy organization says its work is proof that Community Supports will benefit health care system


Soraya Marashi


CalAIM’s Community Supports will result in reduced hospital admissions and increased cost savings for Medi-Cal, according to data from the Illumination Foundation (IF).


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CalAIM Community Supports include several housing-related services, such as housing transition navigation services, housing deposits, and short-term post-hospitalization housing. IF, a non-profit specializing in providing targeted health care and housing services for homeless adults and children, has been participating in homelessness prevention and housing solution programs since its founding in 2008. 

In a webinar hosted by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), leaders at IF emphasized how investing in these services for beneficiaries not only improves their health, but also reduces costs to the health care system. 

One of these leaders, IF’s Executive Director of Health Care Services Pooja Bhalla, highlighted the importance of addressing beneficiaries’ social determinants of health, especially with housing.

She referenced IF’s micro-community and emergency housing program, where the Foundation rents single-family homes with multiple bedrooms, and each room houses an individual experiencing homelessness while they wait to get connected to a housing voucher for permanent housing, which she noted can often take months to several years.

Bhalla added that IF’s short-term housing and recuperative care programs include comprehensive wraparound services such as case management and counseling for long-term housing stability, as well as on-site primary care services.

“One of the things we wanted to address early on is how we keep people out of the hospital system and the shelter system,” she said. “So not only are we addressing the social determinants of health through the system of care, we’re now working very closely with our clients and bringing them into timely care into a doctor’s office, which is housed right where they sleep, in the medical respite or the shelter, without them having to go to the emergency rooms or inpatient settings. We have therapists, psychiatrists, and primary care doctors who are now able to take care of them when they need it and where they need it.”

She said that CalAIM ECM and Community Supports will build upon the programs IF has already been working on, and that according to data captured between July 2017 and July 2020, this endeavor to address beneficiaries’ social determinants of health has proven successful. 

IF intervention resulted in a 22.2% decline in emergency room visits, and a 26.3% decline in hospital admissions. In terms of overall cost to the Medi-Cal system, in one of the counties it serves, IF saw a 30.7% decline in total cost of care for the homeless population. Per member per month savings after a 1-year post-intervention period were also significant, with $754.78 saved for crisis intervention services, $883.27 saved for medical advocacy services, and $218.14 saved for housing case management services. 

“Addressing the social determinants of health is not only the right thing to do, but is actually saving thousands of dollars to the system,” Bhalla said. 

Currently, over 10 of the 14 Community Supports are being offered in 16 counties starting July 1st. Riverside, Sacramento, and San Diego counties will offer all 14 Community Supports, and 97% of all California counties will offer at least 6 Community Supports.