Commitment to SOAR

Integral Care was the first agency within our local community to identify staff positions dedicated to SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery), a national program designed to increase access to the disability income benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration.  As Integral Care has expanded services for individuals who are currently or formerly homeless, SOAR is a perfect fit as it is designed specifically for adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.  When individuals obtain benefits through SOAR, they not only gain income, but they also have Medicaid benefits, granting them access to much needed medical care.

Presently as an agency, we have 2 dedicated full-time SOAR specialists, with four other staff members trained to complete applications.  At least one additional full-time position for SOAR will be added starting in the next fiscal year and the PATH team is currently having three of their staff trained to add yet another engagement tool for them to use with clients.

While we are working to increase our SOAR resources within the agency, we are also committed to seeing SOAR capacity expand within the larger community.  Health Community Collaborative’ s very own SOAR specialist, Suzie Brady, was designated by the Texas Homeless Network (THN) as the local SOAR lead for the Austin/Travis community in May of 2016.  In this role, Suzie works closely with THN at the state level.  Her responsibilities as local lead include advocating for the use of SOAR in our community in general, assisting with all facets of SOAR training from the online course through the in-person SOAR Fundamentals trainings to refresher trainings, and providing assistance and support to individuals utilizing the SOAR process in our community.  Suzie has already trained new staff from Travis County Health and Human Services, Trinity Center, Front Steps, Caritas, and the Community Care Collaborative.  She is also meeting with the Mental Health Public Defenders office starting this week to get their staff trained.  She meets monthly with staff doing applications and/or who have been trained to review best practice, answer questions, and ensure consistency throughout our community.  Most importantly, Suzie has worked toward developing strong relationships with local representatives at Social Security Administration and Disability Determination Services, both critical partners for the SOAR process.

Integral Care and Travis County HHS participated in a national pilot program for SOAR interns, working with the UT School of Social Work.  In fact, one of our Integral Care interns was featured in the Soar Voices blog in March, 2017.  Suzie has worked on highlighting our community and efforts on a national level through SOAR Voices Blog postings (December, 2016) and a presentation in the SOAR Webinar Series: Strengthening SOAR Applications Through Strong Collaborations (January 2017). Through Suzie’s leadership and Integral Care’s commitment to SOAR, we are seeing a new level of excitement and interest in SOAR.  Most importantly, however, this is translating into tangible benefits for the individuals being served.  To date, the Integral Care dedicated SOAR specialists have helped 55 individuals apply for benefits using the SOAR process.  This has resulted in 36 approvals and have 14 additional applications pending a decision.  These approvals have generated more than $60,000 in additional revenue for the agency.