Mental Illness, Addiction, and Unhoused

My first staff hire will be a Social Worker who can help us work with those who are suffering from things like addiction, mental illness and those experiencing homelessness (the unhoused). The social worker’s main task will be getting these vulnerable populations the necessary resources to help improve their situations. We will also work to educate the community about how to utilize 211 when appropriate while expanding its use. This should result in lessening the call volume for BPD and BCFD. I also want to work with hospital systems’ psychiatric units and mental health and addiction programs to initiate or expand current city programs, specifically outpatient resources and programs for mental health, Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), and a Narcan Distribution Program to local businesses. ACT works well for many people because they are treated directly at home. This helps reduce the volume of patients in Emergency Rooms and the volume of calls for EMTs as well as their associated costs.

These actions also reduce the risk of other issues that come with being on the street or unhoused. I interned at the Legal Aid Bureau across from City Hall for the Division of Housing and Consumer Law. I have spoken with the unhoused directly. We have never had enough housing and shelters for the demand here as we are now seeing with the current lottery that rejects thousands of people and in an inequitable manner, leaving several of the people in most need behind. In addition, the shelters for the unhoused are unsafe, especially for women and children. Given that the Sheriff’s Office is charged with evictions, I would also like to charge them with the security and safety of those who are being evicted to make sure they have a place to go and to provide security at these shelters. The Housing Authority can have an expanded security as well over time to meet these needs.

I know from my experience as a Controller (head of accounting and finance) for a regional addiction therapy company. People with opioid use disorder need treatment with medications: buprenorphine (suboxone) or methadone. That is the best and most proven treatment. There is more to it, and counseling is also required, preferably Intensive Outpatient (IOP) Therapy; however, without some medication treatment, very few patients recover. Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disorder, and treatment success requires ongoing support for most people.

Assisted Outpatient Therapy (AOT), which is practiced in New York for extreme cases of patients who are constantly at risk of being admitted to a hospital, is also something that could be practiced here further down the line once these other more immediate and addressable issues are dealt with. Still, we have to be mindful of the rights of each individual with AOT, but this practice would really help reduce the costs for everyone and free up many resources while delivering more care that actually helps them and helps preserve lives.

Take part in the Primary Election