May 27, 2021

CareSource: Fix Homelessness and You Fix a Lot More

Ohio’s Medicaid Managed Care plans know that 80% of what makes a person healthy or unhealthy isn’t a matter of medical care; it’s determined by social, environmental and behavioral factors, and housing is among the most important.

So when the Ohio Housing Finance Agency sought partners for a project to investigate whether a more-stable home for an expectant mom makes for a healthier baby, CareSource stepped up. Working with community partners, the plan helped create Healthy Beginnings at Home.

It was both a housing assistance program and carefully controlled research study into the effect of housing stability on birth outcomes.

Working with the Homeless Families Foundation (HFF) and other partners in Columbus, CareSource helped identify and recruit 100 pregnant women who were at risk of homelessness and who agreed to participate in the project. All of the women received the medical and other interventions that any Medicaid patient would receive, but 50, randomly chosen, were given housing support: rent subsidies and the help of a housing stabilization specialist from HFF.

The specialist helped the women apply for jobs and benefits, continue their education and address problems with behavioral health, addiction, credit and legal issues — all challenges that make it harder for an expectant mom to focus on prenatal appointments, eating right, building healthy habits and reaching her goals.

Results of the program illustrate what housing advocates have said for a long time: Fix housing and you fix a lot of other things in a family’s life. Among the group that received housing intervention, 40 babies were born full-term and at a healthy weight. In the control group, only 24 were.

Some babies in each group were sick and had to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit, but the intervention group had fewer babies needing help. Among all babies who were admitted to the NICU, those in the intervention group had to stay an average of eight days, — compared with 29 days for babies whose moms did not receive extra housing help.

Of course that represents a major savings in healthcare dollars, but the positive difference it could make in a life just starting is immeasurable.

CareSource and HFF and other partners are seeking funding to replicate Healthy Beginnings at Home on a broader scale.

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