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Continued state investment needed for the Medicaid ACOs and Housing First program for New Jersey’s most vulnerable people and communities

June 25, 2018
Care team member meeting with doctor at triage center

By Kathleen Noonan

With less than a week before New Jersey’s constitution requires fiscal budget 2019 to be approved, one thing is certain: Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and the Camden Coalition Housing First program are essential to meeting the healthcare needs of some of our most complex Medicaid recipients in communities that suffer from our state’s most significant health disparities.

It is critical that New Jersey continue the Medicaid ACO Demonstration project. As part of a three-year demonstration that began in 2015, the Camden Coalition, Trenton Health Team, and Healthy Greater Newark have been improving the health and well-being of members across the state. At the Camden Coalition, it’s stories like those of Charlie Vazquez and Christine Keck that underscore why this work matters, especially in the midst of a growing opioid crisis. Christine was able to get her pregnancy on a healthy track with medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder and housing support. Our complex care intervention helped Charlie get his chronic illnesses under control after years on and off of heroin and in and out of jail. Christine is now raising her healthy baby boy in a stable home. Charlie is on the mend and about to move into a place of his own.

It is also crucial that New Jersey sustain the Camden Coalition Housing First program, an intervention that has preliminarily shown a 60 percent reduction in inpatient and emergency room use. Housing First is a widely-used, evidence-based housing model that ends homelessness for individuals facing long-term housing challenges. With the help of community partners, the Camden Coalition provides participants with safe, dignified housing and extensive wrap-around support services so they can improve their health and manage chronic conditions.

Given the extent of the opioid crisis and ever more uncertainty about healthcare from Washington, now is not the time to pull the rug out from the most vulnerable people in our state. Instead, New Jersey can lead the country, at such a critical time, toward a healthcare system that values local innovation and ultimately improves the health and social needs of individuals.

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