The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a joint effort with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help nearly 1,000 non-elderly Americans with disabilities.

It’s the first time that the federal agencies have joined forces to offer a combination of rental assistance, health care, and other services targeted to this population.

HUD is providing $7.5 million in rental assistance vouchers to help individuals with disabilities leave nursing homes and other institutions to live independently, announced Secretary Shaun Donovan on Thursday.

Public housing authorities in 15 states were selected to participate in the program.

The funding is being provided through HUD’s Rental Assistance for Non-Elderly Persons with Disabilities Program. In October, HUD awarded $33 million to support a first round of 4,300 vouchers to help disabled individuals avoid potential institutionalization. The latest funding is the remainder of the $40 million effort and targets those currently living in institutional settings but could move into a community with assistance.

The program does more than just help individuals be more independent.

“It’s also good for the bottom line,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, explaining that caring for people in their own homes instead of an institution saves money.

Individuals receiving rental assistance through the program will receive health and other services through HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person (MFP) grant program. In places where MFP is not available, services will be provided by a state-sponsored institutional transitional program.

“There is a very significant demand for doing this partnership,” said Donovan during a conference call with Affordable Housing Finance and other media.

Donovan said 142 public housing authorities applied for the program, five times the number that received the vouchers. The housing authorities had to demonstrate a strong partnership with their state health and human services agencies or their Medicaid organizations. In addition to showing significant experience working with the disabled, the housing agencies had to present a detailed plan on how they would work with the disabled community.