Good health and stable housing are the foundation for thriving communities. That is why we believe it is important to integrate housing support with health care services for children and families.
A new evaluation report and research brief on the Yakima County Maternal-Child Health Diversion Project highlights the success of this approach. With funding provided by Premera Blue Cross, Building Changes partnered with Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (YNHS) to incorporate Diversion into their existing First Steps Maternity Support Services/Infant Care Management (MSS/ICM) program. Diversion is an approach that empowers people to resolve their housing crises quickly, safely, and permanently. It includes creative problem-solving conversations; case management to reduce barriers; and one-time flexible financial assistance when needed.
Through the project, Diversion services were offered to pregnant and postpartum individuals on Medicaid who identified as experiencing homelessness or housing instability. As a result, 69.3% of households with exit data exited from the project to stable housing—a key indicator of success in housing outcomes.
Another lasting impact is the gap that has been bridged between housing and health services at YNHS, both for their clients and their staff. Prior to the project, the MSS/ICM team and housing team did not typically connect with each other’s work when serving their clients. Now both teams see how important it is to create a pathway between departments. Lisa Root, MSS/ICM supervisor at YNHS, explained it best.
“Through this project, we as a staff have identified and seen clients’ positive health outcomes when they have housing stability and when housing is a part of healthcare. On the maternity services side, our standard prenatal or post-pregnancy screening didn’t commonly include questions about housing. Now our MSS team is always asking, ‘What about her housing situation? Who is she living with? Is her housing stable?’ And on our housing services side, our housing team is now identifying pregnant moms who are homeless and getting them connected to MSS. The bridge goes both ways here. It’s great to see both departments continue to bridge that service gap even after the project has ended,” she said.
Read the research brief for a summary of the project and evaluation findings.
Read the full report for more details on the project, evaluation, and program participant characteristics and outcomes.