The Department of Health and Hospital's Louisiana Permanent Supportive Housing Program (PSH) was honored at a ceremony this week by receiving the 2013 Great Places in Louisiana Award for its efforts to improve the health and quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Members of the PSH team were honored by AARP, the Center for Planning Excellence and the Lt. Governor's Office in an award ceremony along with the City of Jena and New Orleans City Park.

"Each day, our employees at LDH dedicate themselves to helping individuals across Louisiana, but it is rare that we are able to honor their work as it so truly deserves," said LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "I am so proud of the team that makes the Permanent Supportive Housing Program a success. Their efforts to ensure individuals with disabilities find permanent housing and are supported in those transitions are invaluable."

The Louisiana Permanent Supportive Housing program provides permanent, subsidized rental housing and in-home supports to individuals with disabilities in Southern Louisiana's GO Zone impacted by the 2005 hurricanes. In addition to access to high-quality affordable housing, PSH, which is a program run by the LDH in partnership with the Louisiana Housing Authority , provides wrap-around supportive services that help individuals stay in their homes, be good tenants and improve their overall quality of life. 

"The efforts of the Permanents Supportive Housing team make real transformation possible in the lives of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities," said Hugh Eley, LDH Assistant Secretary for the Office of Aging and Adult Services. "This honor from Great Places in Louisiana is a testament to their work and an indicator that we can be successful in helping individuals stay in their own communities when we think outside of traditional fee-for-service models of assistance. I am honored to work with the PSH team."

Louisiana's Permanent Supportive Housing Program is the largest and most successful state-operated PSH program in the country.  With 3,300 units scheduled for lease up by 2014, it is currently housing over 2,400 households with disabilities and has a 98 percent rate of housing retention.  As people are housed and helped to access benefits and employment, the program has helped over a third of program participants to obtain a source of or increase in household income. Because of its large scale and cross-disability focus, and because it was created through state as well as community-level partnerships, Louisiana's PSH program has been the subject of a formative evaluation and learning project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and was the model for a new demonstration program sponsored by  the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Louisiana was one of 13 states recently awarded a special allocation of HUD PSH subsidies to provide community-integrated housing with services to individuals with disabilities transitioning from institutions. This award will help create an additional 200 units of PSH housing and will allow the program to expand statewide.    

The PSH program:

1) Reduces homelessness. Sixty percent of households in Louisiana PSH were homeless at the time they entered the program.

2) Reduces unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities. Approximately 10 percent of PSH households consist of people who were transitioned out of nursing homes, intermediate care facilities, or psychiatric facilities.  

3) Improves health and quality of life outcomes while reducing costs to public and private payers.  Individuals served by Louisiana PSH are typically those with the highest rates of emergency room use, repeat hospitalization and institutionalization. The Louisiana PSH program has produced a 24 percent reduction in Medicaid cost for program participants.  

4) Improves public acceptance and understanding of people with disabilities.  Property developers, managers, and landlords who were initially resistant to including PSH units in their projects are now among the program's most enthusiastic supporters.  As one major property developer puts it: "I wish all of our tenants came with Housing Support Teams."   

The annual Great Places in Louisiana awards program, now in its fourth year, recognizes organizations, communities and local governments that are working to make their community livable for people of all ages and abilities. The judges' panel was comprised of seven national experts and professionals from a variety of fields who closely evaluated each nomination using specific criteria that defines a livable community or community program.  Judges critiqued affordability, accessibility, community engagement, walkability, and public transit among other measures. Each Great Place award winner receives $1,500 and is honored at an awards reception at the Smart Growth Summit, a program of the Center for Planning Excellence.