Supportive Housing Programs Offer Integrated Solutions for People with Mental Disabilities

Since the 1960s there has been steady reformation of mental health care in the United States. One of the most visible signs of this effort is the movement away from treatment in large state mental hospitals and towards community care. But "community care" encompasses a great number of programs, from treatment provided in group homes to interaction with a social worker to job training and other vocational training centers. One of the programs on the cutting edge of community mental health is called "supportive housing," and it incorporates not only housing but social services and medical care as well.

Supportive housing was originally designed to help homeless people, many of whom suffer from mental illness, get off the streets. The main idea was that simply shifting people into a stable, non-judgmental environment creates a much better atmosphere for comprehensive mental health treatment.

According to a fact sheet from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, supportive housing has branched out, and now incorporates three basic, and interrelated, principles. First, supportive housing places people with mental illness in their own home, not in a group facility. Second, once a person has a home of his own, he then has access to a wide array of community based mental health services. As part of this system, assertive community treatment teams assist people with more severe forms of mental illness who may experience various crises living alone, or who require greater help with activities of daily living. Finally, supportive housing integrates people with mental illness into the community, and ensures that they will not be segregated in an environment where they live and work only with other people with mental illness.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides grants for supportive housing through an annual national competition. Local communities, non-profits, and public mental health associations are all able to submit proposals. HUD has detailed information about supportive housing programs on its Web site, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing has additional information here.

Article Last Modified: 04/29/2009

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