Health / Human Services

Voices from PFS Pioneers: Oklahoma PFS Supportive Housing Project

April 3, 2018

Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) spoke with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) and Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) about the Oklahoma Pay for Success Supportive Housing Project. This blog is part of an interview series with selected project partners from our Social Innovation Fund: Transaction Structuring Competition.

NFF: Tell us about the clients who will be served by this project. What challenges do they face, and what positive outcomes will you work toward? What are the strengths and capacities that best enable the project partners to achieve these outcomes?

ODMHSAS/CSH: The focus of our proposed effort is young adults (ages 17-25) with mental health, substance use or co-occurring disorders who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. A heightened concern is for young people transitioning out of foster care and/or the criminal justice system. These transition-aged youth face many barriers and challenges as they leave these systems. The heightened risk of negative outcomes makes this a priority population for State child serving agencies and programs. Evidence does show that supportive housing is an effective intervention strategy that can significantly decrease future mental health challenges, homelessness and criminal justice engagement.

The primary goal of such an effort would be to increase housing stability for the target population, reduce criminal justice involvement, and increase connections to education and employment. By providing stable housing, along with appropriate treatment and support services, it is expected that the State could realize:

  • Reduction of inpatient hospitalizations (Oklahoma Department of Mental Health Services)
  • Reduction in criminal justice system interactions (Oklahoma Department of Juvenile Affairs and Oklahoma Department of Corrections)
  • More transitions into permanent housing situations for youth aging out of foster care (Oklahoma Department of Human Services)

NFF: What motivated you and your partners to pursue a Pay for Success project as means of delivering the outcomes you have talked about? What gave you the most hesitation?

ODMHSAS/CSH: The Pay for Success model is to invest in initiatives that produce results. This is in keeping with the Department’s philosophy of investment in evidence-based services and incentives for positive outcomes, along with a history of public-private partnership.  

The Department also already has strong collaborative relationships with other State agencies, along with data sharing agreements and infrastructure to help ensure effective implementation. This includes strong relationships with the four youth service providers that have been part of the project design team. All will play vital roles in any future implementation efforts. Each of these partners brings existing resources and expertise that will be critical components moving forward.

Ultimately, the hope would be for a successful model program that can then be replicated by others. It is expected that the cost to appropriately intervene will be much less than the cost of dealing with the negative consequences that would otherwise occur.

NFF: As you know, the shift towards outcomes can be challenging and the road to launching a Pay for Success project is a long one! Can you share with us what the biggest challenge has been to date? How has this experience influenced the development of the project and the work of your organization?

ODMHSAS/CSH: Access to affordable housing is a need for this population throughout the State, as is access to the needed wrap-around services that makes it possible to maintain housing. A Pay for Success approach does provide a potential means to address this need for approximately 1,600 transition-aged homeless youth in Oklahoma. The Department is committed to the needs of this population and will continue to work towards innovative ways to enhance service opportunities. We will work to determine what next steps may occur and look at future opportunities.