HUD Secretary Ben Carson

A $15 million, three-year U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development project that will test the ability of an enhanced supportive services model to help elderly residents of affordable housing properties age in place and stay out of emergency departments, hospitals and nursing homes continues to move forward.

The federal agency said Tuesday that it is seeking comments about the proposed collection of data related to its Supportive Services Demonstration/Integrated Wellness in Supportive Housing project. The notice is to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

HUD originally announced that it was seeking affordable housing communities to participate in the pilot project in January 2016 and announced the selected Section 202 and other properties in January 2017. The 40 communities that are expected to participate previously were listed on HUD’s website. They are located in California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and South Carolina.

“In the short term, we’re glad that residents can soon start benefiting from these staff at the demonstration sites,” Linda Couch, LeadingAge’s vice president for housing policy, congressional affairs and housing, told McKnight’s Senior Living. “For the longer term, we are eager for the results of the demonstration on how well the interventions allow residents to maintain independence and avoid more costly levels of care.”

HUD previously announced that the project’s grants would cover the costs related to hiring full-time enhanced service coordinators and part-time wellness nurses to connect older adults with the supportive services they need to live independently. Tuesday’s announcement said that the plan is to have the coordinators and nurses administer a 90-minute resident needs assessment that will cover social and medical service information as well as information about resident demographics, health status, activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living. About 4,000 low-income residents are expected to be surveyed.

HUD has awarded a contract to the Lewin Group, LeadingAge and the national Center for Healthy Aging to conduct the research. Previous research by LeadingAge and the Lewin Group found that the availability of an on-site service coordinator, such as a social worker, at federally subsidized seniors housing reduced hospital admissions among residents by 18%.

Speaking at LeadingAge Florida’s annual meeting in July, HUD Secretary Ben Carson noted the agency’s commitment to the demonstration project. On-site wellness coordinators and other personnel, he said at the time, “will lower healthcare costs, enable seniors to remain healthy and retain a high quality of life.”