Community Supports: Meeting the complex needs of our most vulnerable

October 27th, 2021

By Lisa Chan-Sawin, MHA

Beginning Jan.1, Medi-Cal patients will have access to a new program offering a range of services to help patients address the social factors impacting their ability to live stable, healthy lives, such as housing and food. This new Community Supports program is part of the State’s broader California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) effort to transform Medi-Cal over the next five years.

The Medi-Cal program is overseen by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and is administered locally by counties and health plans.

Formerly known as the In Lieu of Services program, the Community Supports program helps vulnerable Medi-Cal patients access services designed to address unmet social needs that impact health and well-being. Paired with the Enhanced Care Management program, patients can receive intensive care management and service coordination linking them to vital services, such as sobering centers and medically tailored meals. An important goal of Community Supports is to ensure patients can access critical social services that support the patient’s ability to stay healthy and thrive in their own home and community.

Only patients receiving their Medi-Cal through a managed care plan are eligible for the Community Supports program. Individuals who are not receiving Medi-Cal services through a managed care plan and are in fee-for-service are not eligible. Information about how to find your individual Medi-Cal status is available on the DHCS website.

Medi-Cal managed care plans will choose from a menu of 14 service categories to determine which services they will provide. Many plans are ramping up service offerings over the next few years. Each service category contains a range of offerings. For example:

DHCS strongly encourages all Medi-Cal managed care plans to provide as many services as possible and expects plans to offer a robust menu of Community Supports to comprehensively address the needs of Medi-Cal patients, including those with the most complex challenges affecting health such as homelessness, unstable and unsafe housing, food insecurity, and/or other social needs.

Each county may have a different set of service offerings based on different timetables set by local Medi-Cal managed care plans. To learn more, DHCS recommends reaching out to your local Medi-Cal managed care plans about what will be available in your county. A directory of Medi-Cal managed care plans can be found on the DHCS website. California residents can stay informed by signing up for DHCS’ e-mail list.

In Sacramento County, the Health Authority Commission, chaired by Sierra Health Foundation President and CEO Chet P. Hewitt, is tasked with serving the public interest of Medi-Cal beneficiaries in the county. It strives to improve health care quality to better integrate the services of Medi-Cal managed care plans and behavioral health and oral health services to promote prevention and wellness, to ensure the provision of cost-effective health and mental health care services, and to reduce health disparities. For more information on the Commission, visit the Sacramento County Health Authority Commission webpage.