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Housing as a Form of Health Care: Part 2

Clinical Redesign in Las Vegas


Gary’s Story

Suffering from the effects of a traumatic brain injury, hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, edema and a host of mental and behavioral health issues, Gary* describes his existence as “a matter of true will.” He avoided shelters because they were too loud and unsanitary, seeking relief at emergency departments instead. “You’ve got to try to be in your best health even though you’re in the worst situation,” he said.

To stabilize Gary, UnitedHealthcare moved him into a set-aside apartment in partnership with HELP of Southern Nevada. As part of the integrated care Housing First Plus model, he is provided intensive wrap-around socio-clinical care, including access to transportation and coordination of SNAP and SSI benefits.

A Crisis in Housing

In the Las Vegas metro area, the affordable housing crisis has hit hard, both with those struggling to keep housing and those who have none. There are more than 70,000 extremely low income households (defined as 0-30% of Area Median Income), but only about 7200 affordable and available rental homes. What’s more, Clark County has the eighth largest homeless population in the U.S., with 6,500 people existing in underground drainage tunnels, on sidewalks and in vacant lots.

And as discussed in our previous installment, without housing, it’s difficult to provide health care.

With Gary, and many others in this program, the results are striking.

Infographic: Pre and post housing intervention statistics


The Power of Housing

What Gary’s story shows is the powerful effect housing can have on health care outcomes. It might be as simple as having a refrigerator to put medicine in—or a locked door to keep them from getting stolen. When stable housing is present, thoughtful, compassionate, and forward-thinking care can also blossom.

The outlook for Gary is promising. Now he smiles when his case manager, Jill, stops by to talk with him about his progress toward his goal of self-sufficiency. “When you do positive things, positive things will come back to you,” he said.

*Name changed to protect identity