Collaborating for Supportive Housing, Health in South Florida

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Helping families thrive takes more than an affordable home. Other challenges like mental health or substance abuse can keep housing from feeling like home. In Riviera Beach, Community Partners (CPSFL) of South Florida is a story of integrating housing and services to build supportive communities for clients. 

“People need housing to get healthy. To get stable housing, they need to be healthy. It’s not either/or. It’s both,” said Lynda Charles, CPSFL’s Vice President of Housing. 

When a new referral comes in CPSFL looks at all of the applicant’s needs, from mental health support, to substance abuse recovery. Of course, housing is part of that mix. 

A Push Toward Integration

CPSFL, formerly known as Housing Partnership Inc., started as an affordable housing developer 35 years ago. Housing Partnership partnered with Parent-Child Center, Inc., a community Mental Health provider in 2001, and in 2019 officially consolidated under the CPSFL umbrella, expanding the provision of behavioral and mental health services.

Through the years CPSFL has expanded its real estate line to include supportive housing for those with a mental health and/or substance abuse diagnosis. Today, CPSFL owns three properties offering independent living to that population, and operates another two, servicing nearly 100 residents.

Since then, they have expanded their mental health staff from about 20 therapists and case managers to 100, who receive 20-25 referrals per day. All of their properties offer mental health services. They also provide place-based services, for example, co-locating therapists in schools for crisis and ongoing support. 

“We look at the family as a system. We coordinate care in a holistic manner,” said Ljubica Ciric, CPSFL’s Vice President of Child and Family Mental Health Services. 

Cross-Training for Success

The departments work closely, sharing information and support, to highlight the holistic needs of the community and clients. To that end, CPSFL started an Academy five years ago to train all of their staff on all services, from trauma-informed care to their wraparound model. Every staff member trains for three weeks before going into the field. 

“Often, staff comes in with a job focus: housing- or mental health-specific. We train them on how to look for multi-layered needs,” Ciric said. 

Charles added, “People need to be trained. We don’t assume they ‘should’ know. People develop their own culture, so this training helps everyone understand each other.”

Demonstrating results and opening the lines of internal communication also helped with staff buy-in.

“Once you show something works – for example when someone gets stable in their housing and maintains it, along with general skills development – it helps,” Ciric said. “It takes intentionality from senior leadership. We don’t always agree, but we problem solve and are open to new ideas and solutions.” 

Team communication is key, which working remotely during COVID underscored. Before, CPSFL’s staff and senior leadership met once a month. Now, they meet two times per week for discussions and review, and it’s made a difference. CPSFL’s work is also data-driven, which helps them track growth and collaborate on existing and new cases and referrals.

Meeting Future Needs

CPSFL is working toward training for all services and leadership training for mid-level managers, who can transmit it out to their staff. The goal: to help clients succeed in every area of life. 

In the coming months and years, they hope to grow affordable housing developments for families, including single-family homes. They’re expanding all resident service offerings and prevention services to benefit clients from all service areas. 

Finally, they are working toward a common intake for all services, not just housing and mental health. Integrating those two areas has been so successful, that they want to continue the process with community services. 

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