The Nursing Home Transition Program (NHT)

Part 1: A Day in the Life of a Regional Housing Coordinator (RHC)

By: Jeff Fields, Regional Housing Coordinator, Region 13

In this series “Day in the Life of a Regional Housing Coordinator,” we will look at the various roles the RHC plays and how it directly improves the lives of older adults and people with disabilities in Pennsylvania. The Regional Housing Coordinator (RHC) at Self-Determination Housing Project of Pennsylvania (SDHP) is a dynamic role crossing multiple sectors. 

signThe Nursing Home Transition Program (NHT)

One of the most important roles for an RHC is to become networked into a region’s local housing system so that when needs arise, the RHC can act. One example of this in action is the Nursing Home Transition (NHT) program,
which is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. This program assists people living in nursing homes to move back to the community, assuming they are able to live independently.

Often small financial barriers, such as a security deposit, or knowledge barriers, like knowing where an accessible unit can be found, prevent a person from transitioning out of a nursing home. This impacts people in two major ways. First, people who could otherwise live independently are stuck in an institutional environment with less choice. Second, a nursing home is the most costly public option for a consumer. By assisting someone to transition out of a nursing home, it literally saves the state thousands of dollars each month, tens of thousands of dollars a year. So when someone transitions out of a nursing home, it is a victory for their independence and for the state’s long-term fiscal health.

How Can the RHC Help?

1. Training

The RHC helps with this process in several ways. We conduct training sessions for new Nursing Home Transition agencies whose staff may not be familiar with the local housing systems. Just last month, I trained a new NHT agency and their NHT Coordinators, who are social service staff persons working directly with the consumers on transitioning into homes. While the staff had good intentions, they were not familiar with the local resources available to maximize the chance of a transition. I was able to inform them about local resources and connect them with key housing contacts in the area to promote their work.

2. Locating Housing

Ramp accommodation

The second part of our work with the NHT program is to assist the NHT coordinators in finding accessible housing. I routinely send the NHT Coordinators accessible units that might be a good fit for their consumers. RHCs like me find these units by networking with various housing providers who will inform me when an accessible housing unit becomes available. Additionally, when an NHT coordinator has a particularly difficult case they are trying to assist, they can contact me directly and I will assist them in finding a unit or resolving a barrier they encountered.

Overcoming Barriers

What is an instance of a barrier that a consumer encountered that an RHC can help overcome? One example involved a local Housing Authority and apartments that had been built for the 55+ population. Such apartments can accept a certain amount of people (up to 20%) under the age of 55, particularly if they have disabilities and the unit is accessible. In this case, the Housing Authority stopped accepting such applicants. Fortunately, I knew the Executive Director of that Housing Authority and with some advocacy and education, was able to change the policy so that they would begin accepting people under the age of 55 with disabilities. As a result of that one policy change, many people were able to transition back to homes in the community from nursing homes.

3. Advocacy and Fair Housing Laws

The third part of our assistance to the NHT program is advocacy around Fair Housing Laws to ensure people with disabilities have the same access to services as those without disabilities.

I talk more about that in the next blog post “Day in the Life of an RHC – Fair Housing Advocacy” which can be found here.

For the RHCs at SDHP, the Nursing Home Transition is an incredibly rewarding program that enables us to serve our main mission of expanding housing options for people with disabilities, while also making the overall long-term care system in Pennsylvania more fiscally sound. But NHT is just one part of an RHC’s role. Read the rest of the “Day in the Life of an RHC” series to find out even more about what we do!

Jeff Working

Jeff Fields, Regional Housing Coordinator for Region 13


About the Author

Jeff Fields is the Regional Housing Coordinator for Region 13, which includes Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Lehigh Counties. With more than 13 years of non-profit experience in the areas of affordable housing development, accessible housing, homeless services, and community development, Jeff strives to serve both landlords and social service agencies in the region to achieve positive housing outcomes. You can contact him at Jeff@sdhp.org.