By Josephine Reid
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness. In comparison, only 6% of Americans are severely mentally ill (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009). In a 2008 survey performed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 25 cities were asked for the three largest causes of homelessness in their communities. Mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults (mentioned by 48% of cities). For homeless families, mental illness was mentioned by 12% of cities as one of the top 3 causes of homelessness.
Unfortunately, lack of funding is a significant barrier to the successful implementation of supported housing programs. Funding is available from various programs run by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as from the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH). In addition, the United States Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009, which includes $1.5 billion for homelessness prevention and re-housing. Even with this, there are still not enough resources to provide adequate services to the homeless population and those at risk for homelessness. Efforts need to be made to ensure that these funds are used appropriately, efficiently, and in ways that will most effectively help the mentally ill homeless population.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA can make it difficult to find sources or to verify personnel information through a health care agency. This would be times 10 when reporting on the mentally ill. Often personnel sign consent forms from a homeless person interviewed, or they’d given verbal in-person consent to a therapist or case worker that personnel could talk to them about their case. And yet still that official may not speak with said personnel.
Despite these hurdles, the San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center, Inc. through its programs and services strives to: facilitate and encourage the development of each consumer to his/her highest level of functioning and potential including vocational opportunities, provide effective and culturally sensitive therapeutic services based on each consumer’s individualized needs, strengths and choices.
The center maximizes the involvement of consumers and family members in planning, evaluation and implementation of services, provide a continuum of therapeutic programs that include appropriate alternatives to psychiatric hospitalization and effectively serve consumers in the least restrictive setting possible, provide early intervention programs that serve to prevent the onset of mental illness or the development of more serious mental illness.
It eliminates negative perceptions and increase awareness and understanding of mental illness, promotes the highest level of social inclusion and community integration for all persons served and provides education on current issues and problems in the community to citizens and community agencies.