Homelessness exacerbates the symptoms of behavioral health disorders, such as mental illness and substance abuse. Yet those who are homeless often have a difficult time accessing behavioral health services, which tend to rely on fixed schedules and in-person appointments.
Building Changes set out to tackle this problem last summer by convening a Performance Partnership Summit of more than 30 local leaders from King County in the housing and health systems—from government, nonprofits and the private sector. The purpose of the summit was to develop cross-system partnerships that would create and execute action plans for improving access to behavioral health services for families experiencing homelessness.
The daylong summit created a convergence of people and ideas that was unprecedented at the time. Despite serving many of the same families, many of the participants never before had sat down together in one place to share information. The larger group divided into smaller cross-sector teams, creating a workable structure for continuing the collaboration long term.
The data-driven action steps first identified at the summit have evolved over time. They are being carried out through different venues and among an ever-expanding number of partners that have been invited to join the collaboration, said Danielle Winslow, project manager at All Home, which played a key role in helping systems continue the work started at the summit.
Specific actions that have occurred since the summit include:
- Behavioral health partners and Coordinated Entry for All—King County’s one-stop center where people initially access homeless services—are collaborating to create convenient, one-stop access to behavioral health services for families experiencing homelessness.
- Homeless housing providers are being trained to use a screening tool that the behavioral health system uses to determine a family’s needs and eligibility for services.
- Behavioral health partners have teamed up with All Home to participate in—or even co-lead—cross-sector trainings with homeless housing providers.
Successful cross-systems work begins with conversations among the leaders, but it cannot end there—and in this case, it has not.
—Sarah Cotton Rajski, Building Changes
“Successful cross-systems work begins with conversations among the leaders, but it cannot end there—and in this case, it has not,” said Sarah Cotton Rajski, a senior manager at Building Changes. “System leaders have continued to identify specific opportunities for improving access to behavioral health services for families experiencing homelessness. Building Changes played the role of catalyst, and the systems deserve all the credit for sustaining this collaborative effort to help families receive services and become stably housed.”
Building Changes strengthens relationships between the homeless response system and other systems that serve people experiencing homelessness, including health, employment, education and housing. When systems break out of their separate silos and come together in a mutually beneficial partnership, they can more efficiently and effectively serve people who are experiencing homelessness.
Building Changes wishes to thank the Pacific Hospital Preservation & Development Authority for providing some of the funding for the Performance Partnership Summit.