Improve health through housing at the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference

Consensus is growing quickly that improving housing options is essential to improving the health of Vermonters.  Released this week, early results of the 2019 Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties Community Health Needs Assessment show affordable housing as the top-ranked concern among social and environmental health challenges. To help connect the people and systems focused on housing and health care, the upcoming Vermont Statewide Housing Conference on November 13-14 in Burlington will provide several innovative opportunities to move forward.  

Beginning at noon on November 13, the first day of the conference features an exclusive two-part workshop on “Becoming Bilingual in Housing and Health Care.” This workshop will bring together housing and health care organizations to learn more about addressing housing needs through collaboration.  In the early afternoon, Ena Backus, Director of Health Care Reform, and Jenney Samuelson of the Department of Vermont Health Access will introduce participants to the roles of Medicaid, Vermont’s All-Payer Accountable Care Model, and other diverse sectors of the healthcare landscape in Vermont, including health insurers, accountable care organizations, accountable health communities, primary care practices, Federally Qualified Health Centers and hospitals. The workshop will examine potential partnerships between health care and housing, explore Vermont-based examples, and work to initiate new local partnerships.

After a break, the second part of this workshop will use a small group format for leaders from Accountable Health Communities to talk about their work and perceived needs for housing in their communities. The groups will discuss how housing partnerships might increase value by improving health outcomes and creating healthcare cost savings, and how housing, health, and human service professionals can begin local conversations and partnerships, moving toward collective impact.  By the end of these sessions, housing and health sector partners will leave with ideas for concrete next steps for their communities.  To encourage maximum participation, the registration fee for the first day of the conference is only $35 ($45, after 10/15) and scholarships are available.

The second day of the conference on November 14 includes a full day of exciting nationally-acclaimed speakers, networking opportunities and cutting-edge workshops, including several on key health-housing connections.  The “Stepping in to Stave Off Homelessness” workshop in the early afternoon will look at the role of the Support and Services at Home (SASH) program for connecting Vermonters with health care and preventative programs as well as at housing retention programs.  Later in the afternoon, “The Quest for Improved Housing Quality” workshop will examine recent steps taken by the Vermont Legislature to improve tenant health through improved rental housing quality, the roles of town health officers and rental codes and recommendations for future improvements.  A third workshop “How Housing and Housers Fit Into the State’s Response to the Opioid Crisis” will look head on at the connections housing plays at each stage of addiction and opportunities to improve the likelihood of recovery.