The California Department of Housing and Community Development is currently accepting competitive grant applications for the No Place Like Home Program. This post provides a short summary that outlines this application process and addresses some of the technical points of the application.
Structure of Funding
No Place Like Home (NPLH) funding will be allocated in 4 funding rounds, with one funding round being administered each year.
The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the 1st round was released in 2018, allocating $400 million. Funds will be awarded in June of 2019. Allocation amounts for subsequent rounds are still to be determined, with no estimates currently provided by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The number of applicants in the 1st round will dictate how rounds 2, 3, and 4 will be conducted.
Funding allocations per year are dependent on the interest and debt service rates which are still to be determined; however HCD anticipates needing to use the full $140 million allowed annually by statute for repayment (debt servicing) of the bonds issued to fund NPLH.
The deadline for submitting applications under the NOFA was extended to January 30, 2019.
Planning and Approval Process
NPLH competitive grant applications can be submitted as part of an MHSA county plan or a Continuum of Care program, or submitted independently.
HCD is the only body needed to approve independent NPLH competitive grant applications (grant application that are not part of existing MHSA 3-year plans or Continuum of Care plans).
No Board of Supervisors or local mental health board approvals are needed to approve the substantive provisions (services provided and structure of county NPLH plan) of independent NPLH plans. County Boards of Supervisor are still required to submit resolutions and other procedural documents to indicate that they are participating in NPLH.
HCD staff articulated that counties are given a wide range of discretion in formulating the process for creating their independent NPLH competitive grant applications. While the initial stakeholder input and final approval by HCD are required, counties are free to add any additional input or review processes. Additionally, competitive grant applications submitted as part of existing county MHSA plans must follow the Community Program Planning (CPP) requirements under the act.
Similarly, while counties must adhere to HCD deadlines to submit applications, individual timelines for developing independent plans are left to the county’s discretion.
All NPLH applications have a mandatory provision to consult and obtain input from the following community stakeholder groups for plan development whether they are submitted independently or as part of an existing plan such as a county MHSA 3-year plan.
Required stakeholder groups:
County representatives with expertise from behavioral health, public health, probation/criminal justice, social services, and housing departments;
The local homeless Continuum of Care within the County;
Housing and Homeless services providers, especially those with experience providing housing or services to those who are Chronically Homeless;
County health plans, community clinics and health centers, and other health care providers, especially those implementing pilots or other programs that allow the County to use Medi-Cal or other non-MHSA funding to provide or enhance services provided to NPLH tenants, or to improve tracking of health outcomes in housing;
Public housing authorities and Representatives of family caregivers of persons living with serious mental illness.
The required stakeholder groups for the grant application appear very similar to the groups included in the Community Program Planning (CPP) process for MHSA county plans.
Beyond these requirements, counties are free to add additional stakeholder opportunities to independent plans or simply submit their plans to HCD for final approval after the initial required stakeholder input.
HCD anticipates that it will rapidly be rolling out competitive grants with one round of funding per year over four year. HCD staff emphasized that the length of time to form NPLH applications is a critical issue. Integrating NPLH grant applications into MHSA 3-year plans offers thorough stakeholder opportunities; however, the process has a longer timeline and has more procedural approval requirements than an independent grant application. Additionally, there may be issues regarding the timing of submitting 3-year plans or annual updates that conflict with NPLH grant application deadlines. In light of these factors, it may be advised that counties submit NPLH independently of MHSA plans to ensure that all deadlines are met.
It is important to note that the deadline for submitting round 1 NOFA applications is January 30, 2019.
Adding NPLH grant applications to MHSA 3-year plans allows for multiple access points for stakeholder input and comments. The MHSA CPP process includes an initial input process for developing a draft of the 3-year MHSA plan, a 30 day subsequent comment period, mental health board public hearings, and through Board of Supervisors meetings.
In contrast, stand-alone NPLH competitive grant applications require extensive initial stakeholder input for the formation of the plan; however, the guidelines have no requirements for stakeholder input beyond this point.
It is also important to note that counties have a very large degree of discretion for the formation of NPLH applications, meaning that additional stakeholder opportunities can be offered by a county. The NPLH guidelines set the “floor” requirements, while counties can set their own “ceiling” of required input.