The issues of substance abuse and homelessness are complex, affecting too many of our neighbors. Although the causes are nuanced and difficult to untangle, there is a first line of defense in addressing the issue, a personal safety net.

In northern Arizona, elected officials, government agencies, businesses, and community advocates have come together to unlock collaborative and broad-based solutions that create access to personal safety nets through emergency shelter, training, and supportive resources.

One inspiring example of this multi-agency collaboration is Closing the Gap (CTG), an initiative between Northern Arizona Healthcare Community Care Management, Catholic Charities, Native Americans for Community Action, Health Choice Integrated Care, The Guidance Center, and Southwest Behavioral Health. CTG seeks to support a specific subset of individuals: chronic inebriants.

For many years, Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) has managed a substantial and consistent influx of inebriants into the emergency department. While the hospital does its best to provide the best services, it has done so at the risk of its staff as they manage abusive behavior and patients with potential life-threatening issues. In addition, the organization absorbs a hefty financial burden.

CTG is addressing the symptoms of the issue by serving as a housing-first model and providing collaborative behavioral health, medical, and housing support structures for patients.

To further its impact in addressing a key health priority for our region, the Foundation funded a new CTG home dedicated to this population. By creating a healthier environment with holistic services, we want to serve a once unmet need by positively impacting chronic inebriants and helping FMC mitigate financial risks. To this date, the CTG house has sparked a 75% improvement in the overall number of resident hospital visits compared with the previous time period. Having a house dedicated to this population creates a healthier environment not only for the FMC staff and the community in general, but for these individuals struggling with substance abuse and homelessness.