Nearly 1,000 Americans with disabilities will be able to leave institutions and move into the community, federal officials said Thursday, thanks to a first-of-its-kind initiative providing both housing assistance and support services.

The program is the result of a unique partnership between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services. Together the agencies will provide $7.5 million worth of rental assistance vouchers in addition to health care and support services to ensure that community living is truly possible.

“Housing is a critical piece of the equation when it comes to transitioning out of institutions,” said Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development. “Coordinating this effort with the Department of Health and Human Services is an important step in ensuring that more Americans with disabilities will have the housing and support they need to fully participate in community life.”

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The housing assistance vouchers will be distributed by public housing authorities in 15 states. Health care and support services will be coordinated through Medicaid’s “Money Follows the Person” or by similar state programs.

Funding for the initiative is the part of a $40 million commitment first announced in April 2010 designed to help 5,300 Americans with disabilities live independently.

Last fall, $33 million was allocated for 4,300 vouchers intended to help people with disabilities and their families access appropriate housing in the community and avoid institutionalization.

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