Florida expanding mental health services to the homeless, veterans

Housing Assistance Pilot program announced to help people get connected to ‘wrap around’ services


ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A new program to help Floridians who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless was announced today.

Secretary Mary Mayhew with the Agency for Health Care Administration announced Wednesday afternoon that AHCA will be teaming up Aetna, Magellan Complete Care, Simply and Staywell health plans.

This will start a housing assistance pilot.

Their goal is to help homeless or near homeless veterans, addicts, and those suffering from severe mental illness who live in Pinellas, Pasco, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, and Brevard counties get stable housing and support services.

“There is wrap-around - services that are critically important,” said Mayhew. “Whether those are peer support services, case management services, mobile crisis response – those will be part of a program here in Central Florida that we will be piloting to evaluate the effectiveness.”

Florida Department of Veteran Affairs Director Danny Burgess, who was at today’s announcement, had this to say about it.

“We have 1.5 million (veterans) in the state of Florida,” Burgess said. “We have the 3rd largest veteran population in the nation. We’re about to be No. 2, and we are predicted to be No. 1 by 2025. So we have a big mission serving those who are serving us.”

Burgess says his agency has been searching for ways to help veterans connect with mental health services and affordable, sustainable housing.

The state Legislature has appropriated $10 million a year for this initiative. Back in April, Mayhew confirmed ACHA received federal approval to be able to create the pilot program as part of the Florida Medicaid program.

According to ACHA, Eligible recipients will include MMA enrollees, aged 21 and older with severe mental illness, substance use disorders, and include those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to their disability.

The services that will be provided include:

  • Transitional housing services
  • Individual housing and tenancy sustaining services
  • Mobile crisis management
  • Self-help/peer support
  • One-time payment for moving expenses

“This pilot program is absolutely transformative, for the Medicaid program and the people we serve,” said Mayhew. “We know that if you are homeless it is awfully difficult to manage your medications, to manage your health. This is intended to restore human dignity, and improve healthcare outcomes for some of our most vulnerable individuals.”

AHCA administers Florida’s Medicaid program and licenses and regulates more than 48,000 health care facilities and 47 health plans across the state.