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First-of-its-kind facility in Central Texas moves forward to address homelessness and mental health issues

Rendering courtesy of Integral Care’s Housing First Oak Springs

Austin—Integral Care announced today that it will soon break ground on Housing First Oak Springs, a multi-story permanent supportive housing community, developed on the principles of Housing First, an approach designed to address the needs of homeless individuals with mental illness.

Construction is slated to break ground in late spring 2017 with an expected opening date in spring 2018. Modeled on other successful Housing First programs across the country, Integral Care’s Housing First Oak Springs is the first of its kind in Central Texas. 

“Housing First Oak Springs is more than four walls. It’s a whole health treatment approach to ending chronic homelessness for people living with mental illness and/or substance use disorder,” said David Evans, CEO of Integral Care. 

Housing First Oak Springs, to be located at 3000 Oak Springs Drive, will be a four-story, 40,000 square-foot housing complex with 50 fully-furnished single occupancy efficiency apartments and an integrated health clinic offering primary care and behavioral health services. 

The integrated clinic is an essential part of the facility that will serve the health care needs of the residents as well as community members. Through a grant of $1.56 million from St. David’s Foundation, the clinic will provide a variety of mental health, primary care and substance use services. 

“Behavioral health services have presented a huge gap in the Austin health care system for many years,” said Earl Maxwell, CEO of St. David’s Foundation. “St. David’s Foundation has been increasing our investment in helping to narrow those mental health gaps and our partnership with Integral Care to develop the Oak Springs clinic is a great example of that.”

According to Integral Care, for those who live on the streets, it’s extremely difficult to seek recovery from a mental illness or a substance use disorder without a safe place to live. Housing First Oak Springs is a unique type of permanent supportive housing, where individuals move immediately, without pre-condition, from the streets or shelters into housing. Once housed, they are offered rehabilitation services and recovery support to help them regain their health and stability. With a safe place to live and appropriate support services, the vicious cycle of shelter, jail, and emergency room ends and recovery begins.

Permanent supportive housing has been found to be cost effective, resulting in savings for communities as housed people are less likely to use emergency services, including hospitals, jails and emergency shelters. Data shows a minimum annual savings of $20,000 in reduced shelter usage, hospital stays, emergency room visits and nights in jail for individuals using the Housing First model. And after being housed for two years, Integral Care clients have a 79 percent reduction in emergency services.  

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, notes that an estimated 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness, and an estimated 46 percent live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders. 

The Housing First Oak Springs facility will join efforts already in place by Integral Care to provide housing for homeless residents in Austin and across Travis County. Integral Care serves approximately 2,000 individuals experiencing homelessness, and manages 450 units providing safe housing for previously homeless individuals.

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