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“It’s almost impossible to try to stay healthy … when you’re homeless and on the street.”

A new housing and behavioral health facility is coming to central Phoenix next year.

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid agency, is building a 70-bed transitional housing facility for people who are experiencing homelessness and are diagnosed with serious mental illness. 

The facility at 24th and Van Buren streets will be next to a behavioral health facility that will be open to the public as well as residents. 

Approved With State and Federal Funding

The Arizona Legislature approved funding for the project, with additional funding coming from the federal American Rescue Plan, according to the agency. AHCCCS will work with Central Arizona Shelter Services, Copa Health, and the Arizona Department of Administration to design and build the facility.

AHCCCS housing administrator David Bridge said the project will help connect people with care and shelter until they are steady enough to move on to more permanent housing. Residents may stay up to two years, but the goal is to get them into a better situation in 120 to 180 days, he said. 

“The idea is to get them into this transitional setting, where they can be stabilized for a longer period of time, [and] have adequate providers with behavioral health expertise to provide the wraparound services for those members,” he told The Copper Courier. 

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Bridge noted that having the behavioral health facility on site will help reduce barriers for people getting the treatment they need. 

“It’s almost impossible to try to stay healthy and take care of complicated behavioral health needs when you’re homeless and on the street,” he said. “Your meds can get stolen, it’s hard to make it, you don’t have resources or money to maybe pay for prescriptions or to get to resources, [and] transportation’s a barrier.” 

The Maricopa Association of Governments’ annual Point in Time survey showed more than 5,000 people in the county were living on the streets when the survey was conducted this year. In 2014, that number was 1,053 people.

Setting Residents Up for Success

In addition to medical care, residents will have access to other services on site, like life skills training, help with housing applications, assistance in obtaining documents like birth certificates and IDs, and more. 

“It’s all those things, really, to help that individual move to self-sufficiency,” Bridge said.

Bridge said over the last few years, AHCCCS has been expanding its view of health to include more than just straightforward medical care. Health, he said, is determined by many other factors, including housing, exposure to pollutants, exposure to violence, and more. 

Construction on the project will begin soon, with the facility expected to open in October of 2023. 

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