Category Archives: Individual Services Committee

Minutes, Individual Services Committee, July 3, 2014

Present: Jerry Ray (MHA), Janice Humason (FOH), Laura Saponare (Catholic Charities), Dave Modzelewski (Network), Angel Middleton (HRU Lighthouse), Charlie Knight, Rebekah Wilder (Craig’s Doors), Dave Christopolis (Hilltown CDC, 3-County CoC), Bill Miller (FOH), Nicole King (FOH), Denise Rivera (FOH), Jo-Anne Ryan (HCH), Todd Koniezhny (HRU Lighthouse), Deb Aloisi (FOH), Delphine Ray (FOH), Rosemary Surdyka (HCH), Samantha Lambert (FOH), Claudia Phillips (HCH/Mercy), Patricia McDonnell (SMOC), and Gerry McCafferty (City of Springfield, Hampden County CoC).

In Pamela’s absence, the meeting was chaired by Gerry McCafferty. After everyone introduced themselves, Gerry reminded everyone that the agenda topic was coordinated assessment, a continuation of the conversation that the Individual Services committee has been having over several months of meetings. More specifically, the topic was the VI-SPDAT, an assessment tool that the committee has expressed interest in using for screening for permanent supportive housing. Continue reading

Individual Services Meeting Minutes 6/5; next meeting 7/3

Individual Services Committee
June 5, 2014

In attendance: Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connection, Nichole King, Friends of the Homeless, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Samantha Lambert, Friends of the Homeless, Courtenay Loiselle, Money Follows the Person Strategic Housing Partnership, Jennifer Lucca, Samaritan Inn, Patty McDonnell, SMOC, Dave Modzelewski, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Kevin Noon, Craig’s Doors, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Jerry Ray, Mental Health Association, Laura Saponare, Catholic Charities, Joe Schroeter, Eliot CHS, Pamela Schwartz , Network, Betsy Shally-Jensen, A Positive Place – CDH, Rachel Taylor-Doward, ServiceNet, Rebekah Wilder, Craig’s Doors, Delphne Wray, Friends of the Homeless

Coordinated Intake Discussion Continued

Pamela provided an update on the online Housing Options Tool due to be initially launched by 7/1.  Andrea Miller (the tool creator) provided a sneak preview to Pamela and she reported that it is AMAZING and will clearly provide the foundation for our region’s coordinated assessment process.

Towards that end, today’s meeting focus was to review the pre-screening and application forms that will accessed through HOT and eventually used across all programs in the region.

Feedback on REACH and Initial Screening Forms currently in use:

(Note: Pamela accidentally provided an old REACH form as the basis for review so the group improvised on a more general conceptual level.)

Comments/suggestions included:

  • Prescreen form should include the question: “Have you ever served in the military?”
  • Prescreen form should include the question: “Do you have health insurance and if so, what?”
  • Note that “Contact Person” asked for on form could be a person other than the one from the referring agency (or there could be an additional contact person from outside the agency), so perhaps there should be an additional line there confirming the contact person’s agency and related information.
  • We should ask primary language/ethnicity/race on the pre-screening form as well.
  • On “income” question, provide a space to note whether an application is pending, e.g., for SSI or other benefits.  It can be misleading to have to state “zero” income because there is no income at the moment when an application may be pending.
  • Integrate the pre-screening questions on REACH/Initial screening as the front part of VI-SPDAT so there is only one name, one document, one link that covers the “pre-screen” process.
  • Must integrate the release form in this document for both local providers and to input data into the HMIS system – if the release is made general enough it  can cover both bases.
  • Discussion of access to HOT:  can anyone get to tool and complete forms?  Overall consensus that this would be hazardous to the administration of the system (at least to start); that while consumer empowerment is an important goal, we need to make sure the system is working among providers; that we don’t want to risk “jamming” up the system with inaccurate information if users are not sufficiently educated about the tool.  Instead, recommended that consumers have access to a page of HOT that informs them of this resource and directs them to an appropriate agency contact to learn more and to get help.
  • Question of “who will be getting these referrals once they are complete?”  Where are they going to?  Is it essentially an online version of REACH and would Dave M be vetting referrals via some entry point?  More to understand (or develop) there.
  • Overall agreement that we should launch the system incrementally; test it out with targeted providers, work out bugs, grow use from there.
  • Noted that the most important features to make HOT workable as a referral system are the vacancy and wait list tracking.  The utility of HOT depends on the buy-in of providers to enlist these features!
  • After discussion, agreed that the completion of the VI-SPDAT for ALL people entering the front door is relevant (and sometimes required) in order to ascertain whether the individual is suitable for “lesser” interventions as well, e.g., rapid re-housing and in recognition that there will be plenty of individuals who may not qualify as “chronically homeless” but rank high on the vulnerability index.

Next step on pre-screening:  Jay, Dave M, Jerry Ray will meet with Andrea ASAP to talk through these questions in more depth and make decisions!

Continue reading

Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 5/8/14

Individual Services Meeting
May 8, 2014

In attendance: Deb Aloisi, Friends of the Homeless, Dave Christopolis, Three County CoC, Carl Cignoni, DOC Reentry Services/Hampshire House if Corrections, Danielle DeBerry, ServiceNet, Janice Humason, Friends of the Homeless, Jeffrey Langlois, providence Ministries, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Jenifer Lucca, Samaratin Inn, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, Dave Modzelewski, Network, Rebecca Muller, Grantworks, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Patricia McDonnell, SMOC, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Ramon Planas, Dept. of Elder Affairs, Laura Saponare, Catholic Charities, Joe Schroeter, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Betsy Shally-Jensen, CDH – A Positive Place

Coordinated intake and assessment update and process:

Gerry McCafferty provided an overview and summary of where this conversations stands:

There are 2 entry points for the coordinated assessment process:

(1)   The “front door,” i.e., before people enter shelter, assessing the individual to establish if diversion is possible

(2)   once in shelter, assessing the individual to determine the most suitable intervention to get the person housed. Based on Hampden County CoC data, 65% of the individuals who access shelter exit it within 30 days; the other 35% spend varying lengths of time, up to and over a year. This component of assessment is focused on this longer-stay population, which is the basis for this Network effort thus far.

Gerry spoke with Heidi Gold of DHCD to ensure that our work on coordinated assessment is complementary to state efforts. Gerry learned DHCD is primarily focused on the “front door” assessment piece to maximize diversion. Heidi encouraged us to continue work on our assessment piece with the promise of providing a model for other regions across the state.

The need for coordination and communication became especially clear in the last couple of weeks as several providers acknowledged the difficulty in filling Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) units with very targeted populations, e.g., chronically homeless person with HIV or having been involved with criminal justice system, etc. A coordinated assessment system could help us locate that person and match him/her to the opening.

Gerry distributed copies of the VI-SPDAT tool – Vulnerabilty Index – Service Prioritization Determination Assistance Tool.   You can find it by copying going here   Continue reading

Coordinated Assessment and the VI-SPDAT

In 2011, HUD mandated that CoCs establish and operate a coordinated assessment system. As HUD’s Ann Oliva describes in a July 2013 email to CoCs:

Coordinated assessment is a powerful tool designed to ensure that homeless persons are matched with the right intervention, among all of the interventions available in the CoC, as quickly as possible. It standardizes the access and assessment process for all clients and coordinates referrals across all providers in the CoC. When providers intake and assess clients using the same process, and when referrals are conducted with an understanding of all programs, including their offered services and bed availability, participants can be served with the most appropriate intervention and not with a “first come, first served” approach.

CoCs around the nation have struggled with this requirement, and the western Massachusetts CoCs have not yet initiated coordinated assessment.  There are many barriers to compliance–the existence of multiple funding sources (each of which may prefer its own tool), a need to identify an effective assessment tool that does what Ann Oliva describes, and a desire for agreement on a tool among impacted agencies.  In Massachusetts, there is also such a strong separation between the individual and family service systems, and the lack of local control over the family system, that it seems impossible for a CoC to mandate coordinated assessment for families.

Locally, we have recognized that the place where we can work on coordinated assessment is in the individual services system. Over the last several months, our Network’s Individual Services Committee has been examining a particular tool that has been adopted as part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign and is used by more than 200 communities across three countries.  Recently, the state of Michigan has begun using the tool across state agencies and in all CoCs.  The 100,000 Homes Campaign provides a description of the development and testing of the tool.

The Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Tool (VI-SPDAT) is an evidence-based, street-use-informed tool that is designed to help providers determine the most appropriate housing intervention for a particular individual or family.  There are two tools–the Individual VI-SPDAT and the Family VI-SPDAT.  (A note for those who dig further: these tools are also referred to as prescreen tools.  It’s a bit confusing because there is also a related case management tool called the SPDAT, which is not the same thing.)

At the March Individual Services Committee, Hampden County providers expressed willingness to try the tool, and since that time, Dave Christopolis (Three County CoC Administrator) and I have talked to one of the creators of the tools,  Org Code Consulting‘s Iain DeJong.  We have learned that the tools are available at no cost, and there is basic training in using the tools on the Org Code website (scroll to the bottom for training videos).

The City of Springfield has now decided to begin trying out the tool.  The City recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, which includes the requirement that providers who use ESG funds to provide rapid rehousing for individuals will be required to use the VI-SPDAT as the assessment  tool for this program.  The Hampden County CoC will consider at its next meeting (in June) whether CoC-funded PSH providers must also use the tool.  My hope is that we will increase use of the tool from there.

While there is basic online training in use of the tools available, the City is working toward providing in-person training that would be available to all western Massachusetts providers who are interested.  Stay tuned!