On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the availability of $907 million in grant funding for the Behavioral Health Bridge Housing (BHBH) Program that will address immediate housing and treatment needs for individuals experiencing homelessness who have serious behavioral health conditions, including serious mental illness (SMI) and substance use disorder (SUD).
Houselessness and untreated behavioral health conditions are two of the major challenges the state is facing. A US Department of Housing and Urban Development 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress estimates that California accounts for nearly half (49.6%) of Americans experiencing homelessness nationwide.
Stay one step ahead. Join our email list for the latest news.Subscribe
According to California’s Department of Health and Human Services (CalHHS), in 2022, 27,774 of those experiencing homelessness, or 24%, reported having a SMI, and 28,999, or 25.1%, reported having a SUD. While CalHHS’s figures are self-reported, the prevalence of SMI and SUD may be significantly greater.
“Along with treatment and supportive services, access to a safe and reliable place to live is a basic necessity,” Newsom said in a press release. “My administration continues to work tirelessly to ensure that more Californians have the support they need to get out of and stay out of homelessness. Through these new grants, we’ll be housing and helping our most vulnerable individuals who suffer with serious behavioral health conditions on streets and sidewalks across the state.”
The BHBH Program operates under the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and will provide support through numerous short-term and mid-term “bridge” housing settings, such as tiny homes, interim housing, rental assistance models and assisted living settings. These options will serve as bridges to longer-term housing. All bridge housing facilities must offer voluntary supportive services to program participants for the purpose of supporting recovery and wellness, obtaining and maintaining housing, and managing symptoms of SMI.
“Bridge housing is a vital link for people who are experiencing both homelessness and serious behavioral health conditions,” DHCS Director Michelle Baas said in a press release. “Housing and treatment are necessary first steps on a journey toward sustained recovery and stability.”
BHBH Program funding will be distributed by DHCS in multiple rounds. The first round of the request for application (RFA) offers $907 million to county behavioral health agencies. First round RFAs will be accepted on a rolling basis until 4 pm on April 28th.
The RFA requires a minimum of 75% of funding to be used for bridge housing, with the remaining 25% serserved for flexible funding categories of the BHBH Program, such as administration, outreach, engagement, and bridge housing start-up infrastructure.
“Accessing behavioral health services and maintaining a connection to treatment while unsheltered poses significant challenges,” CalHHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a press release. “This flexible program will allow for the creation of new, deeply supportive housing settings that will help Californians who are struggling the most to find safety, stability, and a path to longer-term housing stability and recovery.”
The BHBH Program was signed into law in September of 2022 under Assembly Bill 179, and provides funding through June 30th, 2027. The implementation of this program aligns with the Community, Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act, which prioritizes BHBH resources for CARE participants. A total of $1.5 billion in funding will go towards county behavioral health agencies and tribal entities.
All of the future BHBH RFAs will be competitive rounds. The next RFA round will release $50 million towards tribal entities in the late spring. By late summer, another round will direct $250 million for behavioral health agencies and tribal entities. For fiscal year 2024-25, $250 million will go towards behavioral health agencies and tribal entities. Competitive rounds will take into consideration the activities accomplished in the initial grant period, which may include the number of active bridge housing beds and the number of individuals served in bridge housing.
State of Reform reached out to DHCS for additional information about the program but did not receive a response at the time of publication.