Recently there has been frenzy in the media over the idea of Homeless Hotspots– much of which many have been tweeted, blogged about, or posted to your Facebook page.  Whether this idea infuriates or intrigues you, most will agree one good outcome is the attention brought to the very real problem of homelessness in our country.  I have received many links to media outlets that focus attention away from the controversy and instead highlight the rising rates of homelessness in many subgroups, including women veterans, youth, LBGT and domestic violence, to name only a few. So, you’re asking yourself, “Is this just another blog about homeless hotspots?” Actually, no, I just wanted to hook you into the real topic of today’s blog — 2011 SOAR Outcomes.

On March 1, 2012, SAMHSA’s SOAR Technical Assistance Center released the 2011 outcomes that are collected annually from the states and communities participating in SOAR.  Some key findings are:

  • Since 2006, there have been 14,813 decisions on initial SSI/SSDI applications reported by 44 states. This is an increase of nearly 6,000 decisions over last year.
  • The allowance or approval rate on SOAR assisted applications was 71 percent in an average of 101 days. Compares to national average of 31 percent for all persons who apply.
  • In 2011 alone, SSI/SSDI brought over $85 million dollars into the state and local economies of participating states.

One of the most exciting outcomes we see this year is related to housing.  With SOAR applicants averaging two years of homelessness, 24 states report that 55% of applicants for SSI/SSDI were housed within an average of fifty days.  We recognize that a key component to the National SOAR initiative is collaborations among stake-holders.   Twenty-six states report collaborations between SOAR and supportive housing providers. Most SOAR programs are actively involved in their state or local Continua of Care (COC) and in strategic planning to address and prevent homelessness.  In 38 states, SOAR is either lead by the State Department of Mental Health/PATH State Contact or he/she is significantly involved.

The outcome data used to determine Medicaid access and reimbursement is key.  Access to SSI and Medicaid (in all but 11 states Medicaid is automatically linked to SSI eligibility) means that health care providers can be reimbursed for previously uncompensated care (up to 90 days retroactive) as well as payment for ongoing treatment.   Eleven states report $6.4 million in Medicaid reimbursement for fewer than 500 persons, an average of $10,700 per person, as a result of SOAR.

In this difficult funding environment, sustainability is key and 15 states report securing new or sustaining funding for SOAR programs.

In the end, outcomes are important to everyone. Only after you see the data, do you see the results of your program’s efforts.  Sometimes outcomes are not expected, like the Homeless Hotspot issue.  But after thinking about it, I realized that an outcome of that issue for me was that I had become more aware of homelessness experienced by different groups of people.

At the SOAR TA Center, we’re thrilled with what states and communities are doing, but we are always asking, “How can the National SOAR Technical Assistance Center support states to do even more and better next year with the limited resources that they have?”  The future expansion and sustainability of programs like SOAR come directly from the outcomes they track and report.  The SOAR TA Center has developed an online application tracking (OAT) tool that may help programs gather these critical outcomes while allowing them to concentrate more of their time and energy on getting people into permanent housing, employment, and recovery.  This will be the topic of an upcoming blog.