Mental Health Reform Will Help End Homelessness
Mental health reform is key to ending homelessness.
Earlier this summer, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (the Alliance) recently published a Federal Policy Update, “Mental Health Reform: A Key Component of Ending Homelessness.”
As an overview:
- More than 10 percent of people who seek substance abuse or mental health treatment in our public health system are homeless.
- People who are in early recovery from these conditions are often at risk of homelessness.
- People suffering from mental illness or substance use disorders may be left without a steady source of income, stable housing, or social support as a result of their illness.
Two key pieces of legislation – the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680) and the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016 (H.R. 2646) have the potential to make an impact.
The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016 is co-sponsored by five NJ members of the House of Representatives.
- Congressman Leonard Lance
- Congressman Chris Smith
- Congressman Frank LoBiondo
- Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen
- Congressman Donald Norcross
The current status of these two pieces of legislation is that in late April 2016, S. 2680 passed the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and is ready for consideration by the full Senate.
In early July, H.R. 2646 passed the full House.
The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, S. 2680, would provide more comprehensive mental health services within the public health system.
The bill improves:
- coordination between federal agencies in order to better serve people with mental illness,
- raises authorizing limits on grants to states to provide treatment and recovery,
- ensures that federal funding supports the development of evidence-based practice, and
- increases access to care for individuals seeking mental health care.
The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016, H.R. 2646, identifies people experiencing homelessness as a priority population for mental health treatment and social supports.
The Alliance and Monarch make the recommendation:
- that S. 2680 should be brought to a Senate floor vote as quickly as possible.
- S. 2680 bill and H.R. 2646 should be brought to a conference committee to create comprehensive reform for the mental health system.
The final legislation should include:
- grants that target mental health treatment to people experiencing homelessness,
- increase access to mental health services, and
- connect housing supports to treatment.
Mental health reform is a key component of ending homelessness for the disproportionate number of people who experience homelessness while suffering from mental health or substance use disorders.