Since the advent of health care reform in 2010, Illinois Medicaid enrollment has grown to over 3 million people. The bill for that care came to $14 billion in 2014 alone. But almost half of that was spent on care for just 100,000 people—many of them emergency room frequent fliers who are poor and suffer from high rates of diabetes, kidney disease, congestive heart failure, mental illness and substance abuse. Of those 100,000, an estimated 4 to 5 percent are homeless.
This year, University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System and partners are testing a program to reduce these costs. It is modeled on a strategy known as “Housing First” that is catching on across the county, and it works like this: Take people who are chronically abusing drugs and alcohol, resisting help, unable to keep a job and committing petty crimes. Give them an apartment, no strings attached. Even buy them furniture and appliances. And watch their use of emergency rooms drop. … [Crain’s Chicago Business]
This piece on an initiative to fund supportive housing for chronically homeless Chicagoans was published April 2, 2016, in Crain’s Chicago Business. The story comes out of work I’ve been doing as part of a fellowship reporting on housing issues from the Medill-based Social Justice News Nexus, and I’m very happy it found such a good home.