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Developing Viable Communities through Housing, Services, & Economic Opportunities

Affordable Care Act Website of the Week: December 2-6, 2013

During the next year, 19.6% of Americans over the age 18 will experience mental health issues and 26.2% of adults living in homeless shelters will suffer from a severe mental illness. Organizations providing housing and services to people experiencing homelessness should understand where to direct clients who are in need of mental health services and how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expands access to services. In addition, homeless housing support and service providers should also know that as part of the ACA, health insurance plans are required to cover mental health and substance use disorder services. 

Mentalhealth.gov is a federal website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  (HHS) that offers information about mental health and mental health services from 6 different Federal agencies including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The website’s main page features different topics, including a Health Insurance tab with information about how the ACA expands mental health and substance use disorder coverage. This section highlights questions and answers about receiving mental health services through Medicaid and Medicare, as well as coverage expansions under the new health care law.

Included under the Health Insurance tab is a section entitled Help for Veterans and Their Families which provides details about how veterans and service members can access mental health services. The federal government provides a broad range of services for veterans including those through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and Military One Source. For homeless veterans, there is the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans which provides free 24-hour access to trained counselors, as well as resources for service providers and family members.

The main page also offers several features useful for understanding mental health and substance use disorders:
  • The Basics tab defines mental health, clarifies myths and facts about mental health problems, and discusses the steps necessary to developing a recovery plan.
  • What to Look For offers descriptions about some common mental health problems and links to additional information.
  • Talk About Mental Health offers guidance on how to address mental health for individuals experiencing mental health problems, parents and caregivers, educators, and community members.
  • The How to Get Help tab has information on hotlines for immediate assistance, health insurance and mental health services, and participating in clinical trials.
There is also an informational brief, entitled Community Conversations About Mental Health, which provides a framework for communities to discuss how they are affected by mental health and substance use disorders and plan for solutions. It details prevention techniques for people who are at risk for mental health problems, including people experiencing homelessness or living in supportive housing.

For people who are seeking services, there is a Treatment Locator that allows the user to search for mental health services by zip code. If someone is in need of urgent services, the Get Immediate Help tab offers phone numbers for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which connects callers with trained crisis workers and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline to speak with a live person about resources available in your area.
  • Every state has a Health Insurance Marketplace that functions as a portal to health coverage. 
  • Some states have elected to operate their own Marketplace, others to be served by a Marketplace operated by the federal government, and still others to share some responsibilities in partnership with the federal Marketplace.  
  • The Marketplaces are intended to facilitate access to affordable healthcare coverage for people with incomes below 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) in every state (even in those that have elected not to expand Medicaid coverage to people with incomes below 138% of the FPL).  
  • In addition, in all states people who are currently eligible for the legacy Medicaid program can be identified and referred for Medicaid enrollment by the Marketplace, without regard to the states’ decisions about Medicaid coverage expansion.
  • The federal government is funding specialized outreach and enrollment assistance in every state.
*Because of possible new insurance options, and the increase in access to enrollment for many clients, it is essential that housing and services providers use the information available on websites such as www.enrollmentamerica.org to familiarize themselves with the Health Marketplace options in their state, and develop a plan to assist their constituents to obtain Medicaid or affordable health insurance coverage.

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