NYAPRS Note: In his 2017 State of the State message, NYS Governor Cuomo committed to providing specialized outreach workers and ACT Teams to aid currently homeless individuals with extensive behavioral health related needs.
While he reiterated last year’s commitment to fund 1,200 supportive housing beds, it’s not clear if the budget will fund another complement of beds to keep faith with the full commitment to fund 6,000 beds over the next 5 years. Outreach workers to connect homeless individuals with health homes is an excellent strategy but more is needed to connect all eligible individuals to them as well.
Stay tuned for more details and finalize your plans to come to Albany on February 28th’s NYAPRS 20th Annual Legislative Day. This year’s priorities will include housing, criminal justice, workforce and community service initiatives as well as voluntary alternatives to court mandated care for those with the most extensive needs.
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Expand Mental Health Services in Homeless Shelters and Community Outreach
As part of his unprecedented commitment to combat homelessness, the Governor announced $2.6 billion to support 6,000 units of permanent supportive housing over the next five years for individuals and households led by individuals with special needs, such as mental illness and substance use disorders.
In October 2016, the Office of Mental Health announced the first conditional awards for a Housing Initiative to support the first 1,200 units of permanent supportive housing. To complement these important efforts, additional services are needed to support individuals with mental illness and substance use disorder living in shelters or on the streets.
Specialized Outreach Workers in Homeless Shelters to Increase Access to Health Homes
More than 60 percent of individuals experiencing homelessness have a diagnosed mental health and/or substance use disorder, but service delivery and the services offered differs throughout the shelter system and the state. Few of these shelters are connected to the broader mental health treatment network. This creates a gap in services once an individual is stabilized in their shelter to continue treatment in the community.
To address this challenge, Governor Cuomo will direct a partnership among DOH, OMH, OTDA, and OASAS to engage with shelter providers and local health care networks to increase the availability of health and behavioral health services for homeless shelter residents. Together, these state agencies will work to increase access to the Medicaid Health Home Care Management system by expanding the use of on-site outreach workers in shelters and in community settings.
In the Health Home model, all of an individual’s caregivers communicate with one another so that a patient’s needs are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. The agencies will also work to streamline the intake process at shelters, so that individuals receive direct and immediate access to mental health services upon entering the shelter system.
10 Specialized Assertive Community Treatment Teams for Homeless Individuals
Additionally, Governor Cuomo proposes to form ten new Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams offering targeted help for homeless individuals in need of intensive behavioral health services. Teams will be based in and around the neighborhoods where mental health shelters are located, and will also deliver comprehensive and flexible treatment, support, and rehabilitation services where individuals live, work, and socialize. ACT teams include psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and substance abuse and vocational rehabilitation experts. These teams provide at risk homeless individuals with intimate support by maintaining small staff-to-recipient ratios of approximately ten patients for every outreach professional. Services and counseling from the ACT teams will be provided to vulnerable individuals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as needed.