Zweifel calls for $127 million housing package for Missourians suffering from mental illness

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel today called on the Missouri Housing Development Commission to pass a multi-million dollar package to provide housing for Missourians suffering from a mental illness at its meeting on August 20 in Jefferson City.  According to information from Treasurer Zweifel’s office, this plan would not require new spending, it would instead re-allocate $127 million (33 percent) of affordable housing resources for fiscal year 2011 to create housing that addresses mental illness and chronic homelessness issues.

One in four adults suffers from a mental illness each year, or about 1.1 million Missourians. Those suffering from the most severe cases are especially at risk of chronic homelessness, which is repeated, long-term homelessness. On any given night in Missouri there are more than 6,000 people homeless. Of those, 1,100 are chronically homeless and most often suffer from a mental illness.

“We have a moral responsibility to end the cruel cycle of neglect someone with a mental illness can face. The housing agency is charged with providing affordable housing and fighting homelessness in Missouri and this plan meets that charge,” said Treasurer Zweifel, one of 10 members who oversee the state’s housing agency. “We must treat the causes of mental illness and chronic homelessness, and that starts with stable housing. A Missourian with a mental illness, whether a military veteran, a son, a daughter, a mother or a father, should not be doomed to live on a park bench or the side of the road when we have the resources to provide treatment and make the necessary living conditions available.”

On May 5, Treasurer Zweifel met with experts in affordable housing, homelessness and the treatment of those with mental illness to develop a plan to use state housing resources. The plan, which was called for in a letter from Treasurer Zweifel to the housing commission on July 2, leverages the housing created through the agency by coupling it with supportive services for those with mental illness. As a best practice, the services are often supplied by a third-party who is provided space and overseen by a certifier. In some cases, care providers may also own the housing.

Persons suffering from mental illness can typically live independently if supportive services are provided in a consistent, reliable and flexible fashion. These services can include: case management, coordination of medical and psychiatric care, on-call crisis help, money management, social skills and daily living training and support groups. Best practices in housing design include: single-unit apartments, community space, single-entrance buildings, 24-hour on-site care as needed and on-site case management.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to housing for those with a mental illness, but there are best practices,” Treasurer Zweifel said. “We need to provide streamlined and coordinated resources to connect the dots of community agencies, faith-based organizations, not-for-profits and governments.”

In addition to providing needed housing options, this proposal will reduce costs to communities throughout Missouri by reducing the strain on shelters, hospitals, jails, prisons and emergency rooms. Costs to communities can be cut dramatically by providing housing options that offer a long-term living situation and medical assistance. Several governments have enacted similar proposals and have reduced cost of services by around $16,000 per year per person, saving millions of dollars.

“I ask the commission to vote yes to transform Missouri’s commitment and approach to mental illness and chronic homelessness,” Treasurer Zweifel said. “We will be achieving a fair return for taxpayers and ensuring these funds are spent in a strategic way that leverages federal and state dollars and does not cost taxpayers a penny more.”




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