On May 27, 2015, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) sent a message–below–to all state Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) Program contacts and PATH providers outlining their expectations of PATH provider participation in Continuum of Care (CoC) planning and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data entry. HUD shares SAMHSA’s goals and encourages CoCs to continue to work with PATH providers to achieve these goals.
Dear State PATH Contacts and PATH Providers:
In November 2013, SAMHSA released the Technical Assistance Plan for PATH Program Participation in Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), which describes SAMHSA’s goals for PATH participation in HMIS. In December 2013, SAMHSA and its Homeless and Housing Resource Network (HHRN) launched the PATH HMIS learning communities, which are designed to provide support and technical assistance to State PATH Contacts (SPCs) and provider representatives to ensure successful transitions to using HMIS for PATH data collection and care coordination. Additional information is provided below regarding SAMHSA’s expectations for PATH providers’ full participation in HMIS and the technical assistance opportunities available to support these goals.
SAMHSA expects PATH providers to enter client data into the HMIS designated by their local CoC for both coordination of client care and PATH reporting. In addition, SAMHSA expects PATH providers to participate in their local CoC to engage in program planning and implementation activities, discussions regarding effective client service coordination, and discussions to solve issues and challenges related to PATH data collection in HMIS.
SAMHSA has two primary goals for PATH programs in connection with PATH providers entering client data into their local HMIS:
- Clients can access permanent or temporary housing more effectively and efficiently through HMIS; many CoCs prioritize individuals for housing using their HMIS, with priority housing placement made for the most vulnerable persons (Coordinated Entry System).
- Clients can access a variety of supportive services that address their particular needs; such services are most often provided by partner agencies in the CoC and referrals can be made quickly and easily through the HMIS, often not requiring a separate client intake and/or application for service. This eliminates duplication of effort both for providers and clients.
The underlying philosophy of SAMHSA’s expectation for PATH client data collection in HMIS is to achieve better outcomes for clients who are experiencing homelessness and serious mental illness. Through more efficient and effective client care coordination, SAMHSA and other federal partners expect that clients will achieve better outcomes in obtaining housing and services that address their needs. In addition, SAMHSA anticipates that PATH participation in HMIS will result in more accurate data collection at the local, state, and federal levels, resulting in less duplication of client records, more timely data collection for effective program monitoring and management, more reasonable justifications for program improvement, and better use of resources.
The following items should be taken into consideration related to the HMIS transition:
- A sufficient number of data elements need to be entered into HMIS to facilitate PATH client referral to housing and services, depending upon the local HMIS’s requirements for referrals and interagency data sharing. SAMHSA expects PATH providers to enter data into the local HMIS for client care coordination to the degree possible based on the CoC’s HMIS set-up and configurations for interagency data sharing. Difficulties that arise based on the HMIS set-up should be discussed with the state’s SAMHSA Government Project Officer to determine potential alternative solutions for HMIS participation.
- Data elements required for the PATH program (as noted in the 2014 HMIS Data Standards) need to be entered into HMIS to correctly generate the PATH Annual Report.
- SAMHSA expects client data entry into HMIS in a timely manner in order to achieve the most positive outcomes for clients. Each HMIS will have its own policies and procedures regarding timeliness of data entry for end users.
- Ideally, each PATH staff member will be an active and qualified HMIS user, have system licenses, and attend all required HMIS trainings. This facilitates real-time data entry in the field and allows agencies to achieve seamless client care coordination. There should also be at least one staff member in a PATH provider agency who coordinates with HMIS staff on PATH program system set-up in accordance with HUD- and SAMHSA-issued guidance (PATH Program HMIS Manual) and is an active member of any HMIS committees in the CoC.
The PATH HMIS learning communities are designed to assist states/territories in achieving these goals and for participants to share successes and challenges related to this transition. Periodic webinars are also offered to present information related to overcoming common challenges associated with PATH programs’ use of HMIS. SAMHSA expects that SPCs fully participate in all PATH HMIS learning community meetings and webinars. For more information about the learning communities, SPCs may contact their PATH HMIS Learning Community Manager.
SAMHSA continues to expect full PATH participation in HMIS by the end of each state/territory’s fiscal year 2016. Full participation is considered to mean entering all PATH client data directly into the HMIS designated by the local CoC, both for client care coordination and generating the PATH Annual Report.
SAMHSA also expects PATH programs to be actively involved in the development of their CoC’s coordinated entry system. PATH’s involvement is crucial to a comprehensive coordinated entry system and ensures that persons experiencing chronic homelessness who are PATH clients are prioritized for housing and connected to the most appropriate services available in the community. To learn more about the coordinated entry process, please review HUD’s coordinated entry policy brief.
In the event that a PATH provider or an SPC has difficulty or challenges meeting these expectations, SAMHSA expects the SPC to contact their SAMHSA Government Project Officer to arrange for appropriate technical assistance so their state/territory’s providers can successfully meet SAMHSA’s expectations. Thank you for your commitment to achieving these goals to support improved services and care coordination for those that the PATH program seeks to serve.