Medicaid Financing for Services in Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless People: Current Practices and Opportunities. 2.2. How Do Federally Qualified Health Centers Provide Services to Permanent Supportive Housing Residents?


In each of the three communities visited for this project, FQHCs are actively involved in delivering services to PSH residents. These Health Centers use several different models of service delivery. Most are well-established organizations that have been serving homeless people or other vulnerable populations with complex health problems for a decade or longer. In some cases, the public or non-profit organization that operates as an FQHC also develops and operates PSH, using a separate housing subsidiary that is part of the larger organization. In other cases, the FQHC delivers health care and supportive services in partnership with other organizations that develop and operate the housing or that administer rental assistance for use in the private market.

The FQHCs provide services linked to PSH through one or more of the following models:

  • Delivering on-site services in PSH through home visits or satellite clinics located in PSH buildings.

  • Operating a clinic that is easily accessible by PSH residents and designed to meet their needs.

  • Partnering with a mental/behavioral health service-provider that provides outreach to vulnerable homeless people and delivers care to residents of scattered-site PSH through a multi-disciplinary team of primary and behavioral health care providers.

  • Engaging “frequent users” of emergency room care and formerly homeless patients being discharged from hospitals and linking them to permanent housing.

Heartland Health Outreach (HHO)

HHO is a HCH FQHC that operates its own clinics and outreach and also subcontracts with several other organizations. HHO does primary care outreach to 150 residential and drop-in locations throughout the City of Chicago, as well as some in Cook County and surrounding counties. PSH tenants can often get scheduled care in their own building. If they need care between scheduled visits, they can go to the main clinic, which is within walking distance of many supportive housing buildings, or to a clinic at another housing site. PSH tenants may see the same clinician at the main clinic and in their housing and are encouraged to come into the main clinic for care as a way to extend engagement. The enhanced Medicaid payment rates provided under FQHC financing allow HHO to use other sources of funding (e.g., HRSA grants) to serve some PSH residents who have no insurance. These payment rates are significantly higher than the rates paid to non-FQHC primary care providers or psychiatrists.

Often an FQHC will deliver services through on-site staff in some PSH buildings, while also operating a clinic that serves PSH tenants from the surrounding neighborhood and partnering with other organizations to do outreach and provide services linked to scattered-site supportive housing.

FQHCs may use multiple financing mechanisms, receiving Medicaid payments for services that can be reimbursed through the FQHC mechanism and obtaining certification to provide mental health or substance abuse treatment services in programs that are reimbursed separately through state or county contracts or separate Medicaid payments for specialty mental health services. Medicaid-covered specialty mental health services, which may include services provided by programs that are not included in the costs covered by FQHC payment structure, are described in the next section of this paper.

In both San Francisco and Alameda County, California, FQHCs operate clinics that are located adjacent to or within a few blocks of PSH sites.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) Housing and Urban Health (HUH) clinic delivers services to more than 1,000 PSH tenants who live in supportive housing sites citywide. More than 90 percent of medical and psychiatry services are provided at the HUH clinic, where HUH clinicians and program managers believe the care is better and the clinician more productive than if delivered in-home. The clinician may visit the housing site and persuade tenants to come see the clinician at the clinic after establishing a relationship.

Most of the staff employed by HUH are doctors (including psychiatrists) and mid-level practitioners or nurses; HUH employs relatively few case managers who are not licensed. HUH nurses work at several PSH sites, where they assess and monitor health needs of tenants and help with medication management. PSH sites that are part of the HUH Direct Access to Housing program usually also have on-site case managers employed by a partner organization, which may be a community mental health agency or a homeless service-provider. These on-site case managers are usually not supported by Medicaid reimbursement. They are funded separately, through HUD McKinney-Vento grants (Supportive Housing Program (SHP) services-only) or from county resources.

Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP)

BHCHP provides services by using integrated mobile teams. Most clients have multiple chronic health conditions, including medical and behavioral disorders. Treatment and supportive services are delivered by teams that include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, case managers, and behavioral health practitioners. Team members work collaboratively to deliver care to homeless people on the streets, at McInnis House medical respite, in outpatient primary care, in behavioral health and dental clinics in several locations, in shelters, or in housing. Continuity of caregiving relationships is maintained across settings for the same people. BHCHP integrates primary care, behavioral health care, dental care, vision, pharmacy, and case management services, as well as linkage to a range of non-medical supports.

To cover the range of services it offers, BHCHP:

  • Obtains FQHC Medicaid reimbursement, which covers medical and nursing care provided in-clinic and medical respite services.
  • Receives reimbursement through MassHealth’s Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP) for a pilot program serving a targeted group of chronically homeless people with co-occurring SMI and substance use conditions.
  • Covers street and home-based clinical team services with its HCH grant from HRSA, and reimbursement from MassHealth for services to eligible clients.
  • Does fundraising and seeks foundation grants for capital and operating funds for selected services, particularly specialty dental and medical respite services.
  • Seeks alternative funding to cover the work of non-medical personnel (e.g., social workers, psychologists, case managers) that cannot be billed under the FQHC financing mechanism.

In Alameda County, Lifelong Medical Care received a HRSA grant to provide services as a PHPC Clinic, which allowed it to establish a clinic in a downtown Oakland neighborhood within a few blocks of several HUD-assisted PSH buildings. At the clinic, Lifelong provides comprehensive primary care and some behavioral health services for PSH tenants and residents of nearby public housing developments and other HUD-assisted housing. Some Lifelong clinic staff members also deliver services on-site in PSH buildings. In some buildings, a room is set up as a satellite clinic with an exam table so that primary care providers (usually nurse practitioners or nurses) can visit residents where they live.

Lifelong employs staff who work full-time (or several days a week) in site-based PSH buildings. They include a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who provides counseling for mental health and substance abuse problems and social workers or case managers who help tenants with a range of issues related to housing stabilization, access to benefits and social supports, and engagement and linkage to health and treatment services. Some PSH sites have additional on-site services provided by collaborating partner agencies.

Partnerships between FQFCs and supportive housing providers are under development in other regions. In Hartford, Connecticut, for example, a new Health Center clinic is being constructed adjacent to a PSH project. In Los Angeles, the Corporation for Supportive Housing and United Homeless Healthcare Partners recently released “Integrating FQHC Health Care Services with permanent supportive housing in Los Angeles,” a publication that describes program and financing strategies currently in use or under consideration.14

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