How to Make New Housing & Hospitalization Available for the Mentally Ill

From DJ Jaffe, Executive Director – Mental Illness Policy Organization –  

Great news! The federal government has just made it easier for your state to expand housing and hospitalization options for the seriously mentally ill. But we have to act fast.

The new policy allows states to use Medicaid money to pay for some hospitalization and housing that was previously prohibited.

In order to use Medicaid to expand housing and hospitals in  your state, the state Medicaid Director has to apply for a waiver.

Below is a pro-forma letter you can use to send to your state Medicaid Director to request that he or she apply for a waiver:

To: Ms Heather Smith – Medicaid Director – Division Administrator, Health Care Access and Accountability – Wisconsin Dept of Health Services – 1 West Wilson St Room 350, PO Box 309 – Madison WI 53701-0309

From: <Insert your complete name, address, phone and email>

Date: <Insert date>

Subject: Please Apply for Waiver to use Medicaid funds for IMD’s

As the  <mother / father / brother, etc> of someone with serious mental illness, I am writing to urge you to apply for a Medicaid waiver that would entitle our state to use Medicaid funds for housing and hospitalization for persons with serious mental illness.

HHS Sec Azar announced the availability of waivers to Medicaid’s Institutes for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion on November 13, 2019 and the Centers for medicaid and medicare Services (CMS) published formal guidance in letter SMD #18-011 (

By accessing federal Medicaid funds, our state can lower the state’s cost of hospitalization and ensure that more seriously mentally ill who need access to hospitalization and housing receive it. This will help lower rates of homelessness, arrest, incarceration and suicide among people with serious mental illness.

Thank you for your attention to this.

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