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Phoenix to spend $9 million on behavioral health, homeless services

Phoenix is dedicating more money to support some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. On Wednesday, the City Council unanimously approved spending $9 million in federal funds to address behavioral health and homelessness.

The council picked Mercy Care, a not-for-profit health plan that serves Medicaid members, to run the one-year program. Mercy Care will provide physical and mental health screenings, counseling, treatment, and case management. 

Deputy Chief Executive Officer Tad Gary told the council the group will collect geographic and demographic information, “We’ll also use that data to further help expand and outreach to additional individuals — if we’re seeing a[n] underutilization of certain areas or groups — that’s the commitment by which we’re operating under.” 

The program will serve uninsured and underinsured residents with an emphasis on those experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. A report to the council said, "Because stable housing is a critical component of recovery for individuals with behavioral health and substance use disorders, additional support services under this program will include eviction prevention, short-term rental assistance and transitional housing."  

“So our goal would be — is collecting data that shows that we are truly moving the needle, that we are meeting needs, that we’re having positive outcomes and, again, where we can increase those types of services or where if we see there’s still gaps we could come back and potentially say here would be recommendations for further support in our community around behavioral health,  substance use, those types of treatment,” said Marchelle Franklin, the city’s human services director.

In a press release, Mayor Kate Gallego said Mercy Care’s network of more than 200 citywide provider locations will mean up to 100 additional adults, children and families will be served each month.

The contract, funded through the city’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act, will run April 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023. It includes an option to extend through Dec. 31, 2024, based on need and available funding.

The program is in addition to the city’s recent  expansion of its community assistance program. Last year, the council authorized $15 million to add five civilian crisis response units and create nine behavioral health units to respond to 911 calls.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.