Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hope for Katrina's Most Vulnerable

A New York Times editorial recently pointed to a model in their city where the city of New Orleans would be wise to use some new federal money to help those still left homeless in the aftermath of Katrina.  The successful New York City project, Common Ground, has shown that homeless people with psychiatric and other problems need more than just a place to live to succeed.  Indeed.

Louisiana was wise to use one New York product, Kendra’s Law, as a model.  The state was right to pass the assisted outpatient treatment law, called “Nicola’s Law,” which permits judges to court-order outpatient treatment for some people with untreated severe mental illnesses. 

New York found that among participants in their program 74 percent fewer experienced homelessness.  Additionally, some housing operators indicated a greater willingness to work with the patients in the program because they knew that they were participating in treatment. 

These laws are increasingly important because approximately one-third of our nation’s homeless population have a severe mental illness.  Many of them, as a symptom of the illness, are too ill to know that they need treatment and do not voluntarily access the medications and services that will help them stabilize.