And it also happens to make a difference for people with chronic, and often conflating, problems (e.g., substance abuse, homelessness, mental illness). Two new studies–one about Seattle and the other about Illinois–show that the new costs associated with supportive housing are more than offset by reductions in: jail bookings, days incarcerated, shelter and sobering center use, hospital-based medical services, publicly funded alcohol and drug detoxification and treatment, emergency medical services, and Medicaid-funded services. While the Illinois study estimated net per-person savings is $2500 per year, the Seattle study estimated per-person savings of $2500 per month. The difference may be more technical than actual: The Seattle study had more resources to quantify the full taxpayer implications of letting people fall through the cracks. This clever essay by Malcolm Gladwell (the Tipping Point guy) about “Million Dollar Murray,” makes a similar point about the payback on supportive housing in Reno.
Springfield’s Substance Abuse Policy Institute, a community planning process run by the tireless James Florek, has something similar in mind. SAPI’s goals are to: a) Enumerate the full costs and consequences of substance abuse and its ripple effect through society; and b) Propose an alternative system that saves taxpayer money by emphasizing prevention, recovery support, local control, better inter-agency coordination, and proven models from other parts of the country.