SOAR Voices


Building and Sustaining Infrastructure to Support Statewide SOAR Activities!

Since 2006, SOAR has helped 31,248 individuals with obtaining SSI/SSDI benefits, which has facilitated access to critical services and supports, such as healthcare, behavioral healthcare, and critically, housing.

While SOAR has been available to nearly 50,000 individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, SOAR is not available in all communities. Our mission is to see SOAR services available not only in our major cities but statewide in every state. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you look toward ensuring that SOAR is implemented across your state:

1. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance!

During my career of helping states, programs, and localities plan and implement services, I have identified a major struggle that we all have in common, “We are too busy doing what we do to think about what we do to plan for our future.” This is a big mistake!

It is important that we move forward with ensuring that SOAR is implemented broadly in our states by having action plans complete with timelines and responsible individuals identified for the completion of each task. Action plans should include strategies for building and sustaining a funding base for SOAR activities, and they should be updated and revisited on a regular basis. In general, these planning activities should take place with the help of the SOAR TA Center and the main planning vehicle should be your State Steering Committee (or other pre-existing statewide group responsible for planning SOAR activities).

2. Say No To Silos! Yes to Human Service Integration!

In general, our existing human services structure works as a group of related programs that deliver different benefits or services to narrowly defined target populations. These groups represent silos: separate and distinct funnels through which money, regulations, and expectations flow.

SOAR has traditionally been implemented the same way, being operated primarily through single silos (e.g., behavioral health or housing/homeless services). One way to ensure that SOAR activities are sustainable is to build relationships with parts of the human service structure different than your own. If you work in mental health services, build relationships with those who manage and operate housing and substance abuse programs. The most important way to ensure that these connections and relationships are created and maintained is including these folks on your state steering committee.

3. Data, Data, Data!

Just because we know SOAR works, doesn’t mean they do! Ask yourself, would you give thousands of dollars for an individual or a company to do work if you had no proof of their ability to complete the work with good results? I am sure your answer is no! The bad news is that most funders won’t either! The good news is that SOAR outcomes are extremely easy to collect and relay to potential funders, policy makers, and the community. For more information about collecting SOAR outcomes, go here!

The views, opinions, and content expressed in SOAR Voices do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors.