Home. To most people, it means much more than shelter. Whether it is a room of one’s own, an apartment, or a house; a home can offer stability and a chance to be part of a community. For people with severe mental illness, home can be a space to live in dignity and move toward recovery.
I shared in our last newsletter a little about the two and half year housing assistance program we have overseen at The Life Link called Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing. A total of 1528 adults and children were helped during this time period. The program provided rental assistance to homeless households to get housing and for others to keep their housing and not become homeless. This was a Federally funded program made available to every State to address the impact of the economy and homelessness. It is now complete in terms of financial assistance from the government but now leaves a very large whole for those individuals and families still facing the lose of their home.
As an agency, we have focused on providing to persons with mental illness supportive housing and all the services needed for each person to reach their personal level of self-sufficiency. But what does that really mean? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services published a new report on 10/6/2011 providing state-by-state analyses of the prevalence of any mental illness, including serious mental illness. The report says: “Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. New State-level data will advance our understanding of the nature and extent of mental illness, which is critical in the planning and implementation of effective programs and services in communities to improve the lives of individuals with mental illness and the families of these individuals. Nationally, 44.5 million adults aged 18 or older experienced any mental illness in the past year, corresponding to a rate of 19.7 percent of the adult population”.
For New Mexico, our rates are 19 percent for any mental illness which is defined as the presence of any mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the past year. SMI is defined as a mental disorder that has substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities. New Mexico’s rate of SMI is 4.4 percent.
What we know is mental illnesses are treatable; people can recover to live full, productive lives and the foundation of recovery is having a “home”. Not a shelter or transitional living situation, but a permanent housing situation with comprehensive supportive services. This is what we work daily to achieve and provide.