Federal Policy Brief | September 24, 2013
The Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program, within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) allocates funds by formula to states to serve homeless people with serious mental illness. Eligible services include outreach, screening and diagnosis, habilitation and rehabilitation, community mental health services, substance abuse treatment, case management, residential supervision, and housing.
PATH-supported programs served over 202,138 people in fiscal year (FY) 2011. 177,202 people were served through outreach efforts. Of those for whom a diagnosis was reported, approximately 31 percent had schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, and 52 percent had affective disorders such as depression or bipolar disorders. Furthermore, 56 percent had co-occurring substance use disorders. Also, 27 percent of clients were living outdoors and 41 percent were in shelter. Finally, 21 percent had been homeless for more than one year and 8 percent were veterans.
Improving Data Collection and Reporting
In addition, efforts have begun to collect and report standardized data on client outputs and outcomes. In 2009, each state and territory reported on all persons served with federal and state matching funds. States used common national definitions for enrollment and eligibility. In addition, SAMHSA and HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs have been working to coordinate client-level data collection and reporting for street outreach programs. In the case of PATH, the agencies’ collaboration efforts focus on a multi-level approach to include intensive technical assistance and training activities to facilitate utilization of the Homeless Management Information System over the next several years.
Examples of How PATH is Used
PATH funding has helped communities implement a ‘Housing First’ approach. Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams are often established using PATH dollars. ACT teams are evidence-based outreach models and are often used to connect chronically homeless individuals to housing and intensive services, i.e. permanent supportive housing.
In addition, PATH programs also work to connect clients to benefits including SSI/SSDI. Often they do this using the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) Initiative. Many homeless individuals are eligible for SSI/SSDI income but face multiple obstacles to actually receiving these benefits. SOAR trains case managers and works with Social Security Administration staff to expedite applications from homeless clients who are eligible. SAMHSA provides funding to expand the SOAR initiative and PATH programs are assisting with this expansion.
Congress should provide at least $75 million for the PATH program. $75 million is the fully authorized level of funding. Currently, the post-sequestration FY 2013 funding level of the PATH program is $62 million. The President’s FY 2014 Budget Proposal recommends providing $65 million for the PATH program, which the Senate Appropriations Committee matched in its recently released HHS funding bill.