Public Policy: Housing and Employment
For individuals with mental illness, the basic supports of a stable home and a job can be hard to come by – this reality often leads to homelessness, jails, shelters, and hospitalizations. It can also compromise an individual’s stability, basic wellbeing, and recovery. Texas should build upon existing supportive housing programs, identify programming that addresses specific gaps in the housing continuum, and make a broader investment in employment programming for individuals with mental illness.
Invest in small group home model and other forms of permanent supportive housing
Texas can fill the housing and services gap for those with serious mental illness by supporting the establishment and operating costs of small group homes as an alternative to institutional care. The proposed model is similar to that which the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) population has had for decades – Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs) and small group homes for IDD. This model is permanent supportive housing with on-site services that can support either diversion from institutional settings such as state psychiatric hospitals, nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities and/or function as step-down options post-discharge from institutional settings.
Increase rental and utility assistance funding for people with mental illness
Individuals receiving public sector mental health services often need assistance with finding and securing a supportive living environment. An SSI check is rarely enough to cover rent, food, clothing, transportation, and other necessities. Without this support, their abilities to maintain stability, experience recovery, and avoid homelessness can be severely compromised. Through funding in past legislative sessions, the state has some short-term rental and utility assistance dollars for people who are homeless or imminently at risk of homelessness and receiving services at the Local Mental Health Authorities. However, this funding does not go far enough to meet the need for assistance. These funds often run dry before they can reach everyone in need. The state should increase its investment in its rental and utility assistance program for people with mental illness.
Expand public-private partnerships to address chronic homelessness
All too often, individuals with serious mental illness find themselves untreated and without a stable housing situation. Most people who experience chronic homelessness have a mental illness and often a co-occurring substance use disorder. Permanent supportive housing is proven to interrupt this cycle and reduce homeless shelter days, hospitalizations, and incarcerations. Individuals who experience chronic homelessness and who have a mental illness should be provided with immediate access to housing and support services. Using a public-private partnership model, the state’s Healthy Community Collaboratives program has successfully housed hundreds of individuals who experience chronic homelessness. The state should expand this funding and ensure that previously unfunded areas of the state can participate.
Invest in job training and supported employment for individuals with mental illness
Employment is one of the most important supports for mental health recovery, but adult Texans with mental illness experience high unemployment rates (85.6%). Texas should ensure that individuals with mental illness can engage in the workforce. Strategies to achieve this should include:
- hiring more vocational rehabilitation counselors who specialize in mental health
- investing in mental health Clubhouses
- developing specific strategies to improve mental health supported employment
Testimony on Housing and Employment