Virginia won federal approval to create a Medicaid program to offer housing and employment services for people with significant behavioral and physical health needs.
The program could launch in July 2022 as long as the governor and lawmakers approve matching funds.
“It’s a new concept to have the Medicaid program provide housing supports and employment supports. It’s not historically the mission,” Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services spokeswoman Christina Nuckols said.
However, as more information becomes available about the impact of housing and employment on people’s health, Medicaid agencies are moving in that direction, she said.
Virginia’s Medicaid program historically provided insurance coverage to people who were very poor and disabled. Expansion last year widened availability so that people with low-income jobs could have coverage.
The state has also used its Medicaid program to develop evidence-based services to help people with addictions.
The federal government approved this new demonstration project. Medicaid will work with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the Department of Housing and Community Development and Virginia Housing (formerly the Virginia Housing Development Authority) on the housing supports, and with the state’s employment commission, workforce centers and the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services on jobs.
The costs are not yet known. The federal government will provide 90% of the cost for people who qualified for Medicaid once the program was expanded last year, and half the cost for those who qualified before expansion.
The services are expected to help people with substantial needs have stable housing and would include interventions to prevent eviction, to move from institutional homes into community settings, to earn industry certifications and to receive coaching to find and keep a job.
“Individuals with serious physical and mental health conditions often face additional stresses due to housing instability and unemployment,” Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia’s secretary of Health and Human Resources, said in a news release. “In turn, the loss of their home and their job can lead to deteriorating health outcomes. By addressing these critical housing and employment needs, we can help to break this cycle of suffering and offer hope for better health and a better quality of life for individuals across our Commonwealth.”