Utah officials hope federal approval will let them launch a pilot project that could quadruple case-management services for some of Salt Lake County's homeless.

Officials from state and county government, as well as advocates and service providers have submitted a request to draw down a three-to-one federal match of local funds used to provide case-management services to homeless people who are eligible for Medicaid.Case management is a link between homeless people and the services in the community that can help them, said Karen Palama, health program specialist with the state Health Department. Aid can be provided in the areas of health, housing and any other necessary service.

To be eligible for Medicaid, people must meet income eligibility requirements and also be categorically eligible: blind, elderly, disabled or recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Staff at Travelers Aid, which operates the Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center, estimate that up to half of the shelters' population would be eligible under the project.

"Conservatively, we think we could use the expanded funding with about 100 families a year, 120-180 men and 90 women," said Leslie Russell, associate director of Travelers Aid. "Of course, we're estimating, because we don't know who we'll serve in the future."

Marillac House believes up to 160 of its clients could also participate in the program. Up to 900 people might be served if the project is approved.

The case managers would bill Medicaid for three-fourths of their cost each quarter. The other fourth would come from Homeless Trust Fund monies, administered by Community and Economic Development. If federal officials approve the plan, $60,000 in Homeless Trust Fund monies that are currently allocated to the shelters would be used to draw down the matching funds.

Similar case-management programs are already helping in the areas of foster care, and services to pregnant women and the chronically mentally ill.

A program for the homeless seems "approvable, but it's never been tried," said Dorothy Owen, a Salt Lake County Human Services specialist who was on loan to the shelter this summer from Commissioner Michael Stewart's office to help with the application.

If approval is granted, funding will be retroactive to July 1, 1990.