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Assistance For Homeless People With Mental Illness

The mentally ill are among the most vulnerable members of our society. The PATH Program exists to serve the needs of homeless people with mental disabilities, including substance abuse disorders.

Support For The Mentally Ill
Many homeless Americans suffer from serious mental illnesses, including those with substance abuse disorders. Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) was established in 2001 to serve the homeless mentally ill. This Federal grant program distributes funds to the fifty states, to the District of Columbia, and to US territories. The states in turn contract local public and nonprofit organizations to provide services. Approximately 480 local organizations are now serving the mentally ill under this program.

Compared to other grant programs, PATH is limited in its scope and funding. It services only those who are both homeless and mentally ill. The program has some ability to provide housing, but more often providers reach out to the eligible applicants and connect them to services already in place within the community. Funded agencies provide valuable services in the community, actively seeking out and engaging persons who, because of their condition, otherwise would not receive the services that are available to them.

Outreach to the homeless community is fundamental to PATH services. The homeless mentally ill are seldom able to negotiate the complexities of finding and maintaining services and treatment for themselves. They are dependent on agency staff to reach out to them and to connect them to services that can improve their level of health and safety.

Screening and diagnostic treatment services are available for financial entitlements, insurance, food, shelter, medical care, Veterans assistance, mental health services, and chemical dependency treatment. Assessment is needed in order to connect the client with the appropriate service agency. Agencies and organizations funded by the program perform the initial screening that determines what services the homeless individual needs and qualifies for. When a homeless individual is assessed and determined to be mentally ill or have a chemical dependency disorder, that client is eligible to receive diagnostic treatment or even long-term treatment for mental illness or drug treatment when deemed essential.

Habilitation and rehabilitation - The homeless mentally ill may benefit from services that provide assistance in basic self-maintenance, social interaction, and communication. They may lack the ability to make choices and maintain functional living skills. Support provided to clients to facilitate their acquisition of habilitation skills is eligible for funding.

Community mental health - Individuals with mental health issues may suffer from depression, anxiety, addiction, mood disorders, or other issues. Community mental health services offer therapy, counseling, or medication so that individuals can achieve a level of self-sufficiency. PATH organizations either provide mental health services themselves or connect clients with services in the community.

Alcohol and drug treatment - The challenges of overcoming substance abuse are greater for individuals who lack social support and motivation, and for those with psychiatric disorders. These individuals are provided individuals with counseling, medical care, and ongoing support so that they can experience full recovery or at the least experience a reduced use of alcohol and improved social functioning. Funding does not extend to cover inpatient treatment services.

Staff training - Staff members of organizations serving the mentally ill receive information and training on an array of topics. Staff must be well versed in the needs of the homeless mentally ill as well as on services available in their communities.

Case management - Each client who receives services has a service plan which records goals and a description of services. The plan should be reviewed at least every three months and detailed with progress notes.

Supportive and supervisory services in residential settings - Staff may be called upon to liaison between the homeless and local agencies, utility companies, or landlords.

Referrals - Services include referrals for primary health services, job training, educational services, and other community resources as needed.

Housing services - While PATH is not able to fund emergency shelters or housing facilities, the program does offer help to individuals so that they can apply for housing subsidies. Funds may be available for minor home renovations, expansions, or repairs. No money can be given to clients, but funding may be available to give directly to a landlord for a security deposit or 1-time rental payment to prevent eviction.

Who Is Eligible?
The homeless mentally ill are eligible for services. Recipients may also have co-occurring substance abuse disorders.

Homeless or at-risk of homelessness

Service recipients must be homeless adults living on the street, in shelters, in safe havens, or in locations not intended for human habitation.

Indicators of imminent risk would be such situations as sharing housing with family or friends in an environment which is crowded, stressful, or unhappy. An individual may be late on rent or utility payments or have received an eviction notice.

Serious mental illness

PATH recipients are 18 or older, and have an impaired ability to function in areas such as daily living, interpersonal relationships, or concentration and persistence.

A mental health issue would need to be evident for 12 months or longer unless the recipient experiences sudden, situational trauma. Services may be available sooner in the case of sudden trauma.

Substance abuse disorder

Substance abuse disorders may be evidenced by 12 months of addiction. Individuals may have had blackouts, convulsions, or medical consequences.

How Do Individuals Receive Services?
Services are all channeled through local non-profit and public agencies. Individuals seeking services can check a database provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by clicking here.

How Do Agencies Receive Funding?
Agencies seeking funding for projects that align with the program mission can find information through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services or through PATH itself.

PATH resources help to fund agencies equipped with trained staff who can attend to the extremely vulnerable homeless mentally ill. From outreach to the establishment of a plan which connects individuals to local services, the program is designed to provide optimal care to the community.