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Access Campaign for Mental Healthcare

HOMELESSNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH

ONE THIRD OF ALL HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE ESTIMATED TO BE SUFFERING FROM SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS

Background
Mental illness is an often severe and disabling medical condition that can nearly always be effectively treated. An estimated 20 percent of the population has some sort of serious mental illness during their lifetime – that’s one in 5 Californians. Individuals with mental illness are also both the largest and fastest growing group of people with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) disability payments. According to the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, an estimated $25 billion is spent annually for these disability payments. There are many forms of mental illness, which like almost any illness, vary in severity. Some of the most common forms of mental illness include schizophrenia, manic depressive/bi-polar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Homelessness and Mental Illness
  • Although less than 5% of the population suffers from severe mental illness, they comprise an estimated 20-40% of the homeless population.
  • Mentally ill people who are homeless are often arrested for some type of nuisance crime yet those who receive comprehensive community mental health treatment stay in such treatment, remain safely housed, and have an incarceration or homeless rate of less than 2%.
  • If we don’t fund mental health care programs that are effective at treating the homeless and getting them off the streets we will be wasting precious redevelopment dollars that help our business community grow and our local economy prosper.
  • AB 34 (Steinberg, 1999) funds community mental health programs that provide voluntary outreach, access to medicines and a variety of support services for the homeless who suffer from mental illness. An initial investment of $10 million produced millions in savings by reducing hospitalization and incarceration. Because of AB 34’s success, the program was expanded in 2000 to 34 cities and counties, helping 4,720 homeless mentally ill individuals. As a result, state and local governments are seeing a $23 million savings through an 81% reduction in jail days, a 66% reduction in hospital days and an 80% reduction in homelessness.

Next Steps
Sustained funding for mental health treatment in California is critical because of the direct impact mental illness has on all aspects of society – education, homelessness, law enforcement and overall health costs. Reductions in available resources for comprehensive mental health treatment will ultimately result in additional costs transferred to another segment of our community. Funding of mental health services should remain a priority for California because it is clear the investment saves both money and lives.

For questions or additional information call Kami Lloyd at 916-658-0144

3/28/03

1127 – 11 th Street, Suite 925, Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone: 916-557-1167 Fax: 916-447-2350 Email: mhac@cwo.com

California Psychiatric Association DISCLAIMER
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