Creating Housing For Homeless In Unusual Places: Aging Legion Post Opening Doors To Vets In Need


(11-21-18) One of the real blessings in my life is my role as a board member of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national non-profit that finds innovative ways to reduce homelessness. Through the board, I have met some of our countries most dedicated and creative advocates, including Deborah Burkart, who told me recently about a clever Northern Virginia project. Here is the Washington Post’s take on this unique approach   to helping homeless veterans. 

Bravo Deborah! Every community needs out-of-the-box thinking such as this. 

Where ex-soldiers have socialized, they will soon find affordable housing

Published in The Washington Post. Written by Patricia Sullivan

A leak from the kitchen imperils a room where card players and potential pool sharks still occasionally congregate. The concrete-block walls exhale seven decades of cigar and cigarette smoke. The basement bar, built to accommodate more than two dozen, is never full — “On a good day, I might have five or six customers,” bartender Doris McNeil said.

So the Legion’s board decided it was time to sell the building, located on 1.4 grassy acres close to George Mason University in Arlington, Va. Developers pitched high-end, high-rise condos and housing for law students at nearby George Mason University.

But the old soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen decided to sell to a local affordable housing agency, drawn to the possibility of a modernized Legion post that will be built as part of the project and of providing much-needed apartments for struggling vets.

It is an approach much like the one taken by religious organizations in the past dozen years to convert under-used space into low-cost housing in return for a new, smaller worship space and the moral satisfaction that they are living their faith.

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Fairfax County Will Lose One Champion For Individuals With Mental Illnesses, Possibly Two. How Will This Impact Much Needed Reforms?

“I leave with grave concern for the future of our broken political system,” Supervisor John C. Cook said.

(11-19-18) Fairfax County is losing one of its strongest advocates for residents who are mentally ill and those who are homeless. And it may lose a second powerful voice too.

Braddock District Supervisor John C. Cook announced last week that he will not seek another term on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Board Chair Sharon Bulova, who has been on the board for 30 years, told The Washington Post that she will announce next month whether she’ll pursue a third term as chair.

Supervisor Cook and Chair Bulova have played pivotal roles, along with Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Ann Kincaid, in establishing our county’s Diversion First program that diverts individuals with mental illnesses from jail into treatment. Under their leadership, Fairfax County managed to go from skeletal diversion efforts to becoming a national model in less than two years.

Cook, a Republican, has been an outspoken advocate for housing and other social service programs. I have cited his tireless efforts on this page. He consistently explained why diverting and helping individuals who are sick is both the right thing to do morally and also financially, explaining that it can cost as much as $72,000 annually to keep an individual with a serious mental illness in our local detention center. Treating that same individual in a state hospital cost $22,500 annually. Providing them with treatment services in our community costs $7,500 and allows them to live in a neighborhood with friends and family.

Bulova courageously created an Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Committee after the police shooting of a county resident. I served on that panel and its recommendations have led to significant changes in how the Fairfax County Police Department deals with individuals with mental illnesses and others in our community.  

Losing Cook and possibly having Bulova retire (a Democrat and cancer survivor, she is consulting with her family over the Thanksgiving holiday before making a decision) will be a huge loss to families and individuals with mental illnesses.

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“Landmark” Decision: Federal Government Will Okay Medicaid To Pay For Residential Treatment Beds

(11-14-18) U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II announced yesterday that the Trump Administration will allow states to apply for Medicaid waivers so the federal government can begin paying for mental health treatment delivered in inpatient settings known as IMDs, or institutions of mental disease.

This is a major change that most recently was requested in a  September 12 letter written by National Alliance on Mental Illness CEO Mary Giliberti and signed by eleven of the fourteen non-federal members of the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee. As a member of ISMICC, I signed that letter. The move was backed by Assistant Secretary for Mental Health Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz.

Azar’s announcement should lead to more Americans with serious mental illnesses being able to get short-term, in-patient residential care because the federal government will pay for it.

Approximately 10.4 million adults in the United States had an SMI  (serious mental illness) in 2016, but only 65 percent received mental health services in that year.

Attempts in Congress to overturn the so-called IMD Medicaid Exclusion, which prohibits the use of federal Medicaid financing for care provided to most patients in mental health and substance use disorder residential treatment facilities larger than 16 beds, failed because of lobbying by groups that argued eliminating it would lead to a greater use of inpatient hospital beds and the construction of more hospital-like residential facilities rather than spending federal funds for community services. In the House during hearings about a major overhaul of mental health services, Democrats successfully kept Republicans from removing the IMD exclusion. Granting waivers gives states a pathway around the IMD Exclusion and its supporters.

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Her Son Was Fatally Shot After She Couldn’t Get Him Help: A Preventible Tragedy Claims Another Life

(11-12-18) Guest blog.

Written by Margie Annis

My child was a 30-year-old man, who still called me Mama and who said to me several hours before his death: “I can do this on my own, I’m a grown man, love you Mama.”

How to begin this story has been a struggle. My son died at the hands of our broken criminal justice and mental health system.

Victims so many victims.

The rollercoaster of grief from losing a child – the nightmares that will not stop – the ‘what if’s ‘and ‘should of’s’  that will not stop – from the moment I gave birth to my son, all I wanted for him was to be good and happy in life and he was – until he was afflicted with a severe mental illness and had a fatal encounter with an off-duty correctional officer in Pasco County, Florida.

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“I lost everything.” Former Reporter Becomes Homeless. Powerful Account Of How We Treat Those Abandoned On Our Streets

(11-9-18) I serve on the board of directors of the Corporation For Supportive Housing, a national non-profit that implements innovative programs  to reduce homelessness. Several of our efforts are aimed at helping young people who are aging out of foster care, the seriously mentally ill – including individuals with co-occurring addiction problems – and persons being released from jails and prisons. Not everyone  on the streets, however, fits into those categories, as this eye-opening story documents.

Thank you Lori Yearwood for having the courage to tell your story in the Washington Post. (After reading, visit Lori Yearwood’s website to learn more about her.)

Lori Yearwood, 53, in Salt Lake City. Yearwood wrote a first person piece about her two years in homelessness, her experience climbing out and her current period of transition. (Preston Gannaway for The Washington Post)

Homeless women are the sexual assault survivors no one talks about. Here’s my story.

Story by Lori Yearwood, published in The Washington Post 

After nearly two years of homelessness, I could no longer bear sleeping, let alone bathing, in the shelter where I had spent too many nights. Its shower stalls were often littered with used toilet tissue and tampons. Drug paraphernalia — needles and syringes — were sometimes strewn across the bathroom floors. On the night that I found human feces smeared across the stall where I was attempting to clean myself, I walked out of the shelter and started sleeping on a bench in a park near downtown Salt Lake City.

My bathing spot: a rushing river that ran through Memory Grove Park. On a September morning in 2016, I took off my clothes and entered the freezing water.

As I dried off with a T-shirt and got dressed, I remembered how, not so long ago, I had bathed in privacy and peace, in a porcelain claw-foot tub in my own farmhouse.

Exhausted and hungry, I began walking toward a nearby church that offered free coffee and sack lunches when a police officer commanded me to stop.

“Someone saw you bathing naked and called the police,” he said.

I stood in front of him, my hair sopping wet.

“You have done this more than once,” he said.

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Top Federal Mental Health Official Supports AOT and Peer Services In Article Listing SAMHSA’s Goals

(11-6-18) In a recently published article, Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz,  Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, explained how she and the Trump Administration intend to implement federal mental health and substance abuse programs. Her article in Psychiatric Services magazine’s October issue should appeal to both peer groups and supporters of Assisted Outpatient Treatment.

This is not an easy feat because several peer organizations oppose AOT, which they view as coercive treatment, and several AOT supporters question the value of peers, because several oppose AOT.

Before Dr. McCance-Katz took charge, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration  was perceived during testimony at congressional hearings as being strongly anti-AOT and strongly pro-peers.

Dr. McCance-Katz’s recent decision to reassign Paolo del Vecchio, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), was viewed by some of his supporters as a signal that the agency was shifting its focus from peer services and the recovery model of treatment in favor of a more traditional medical model. When Dr. McCance-Katz announced SAMHSA would re-examine the criteria it uses to declare a treatment program as “evidence based,” some peer leaders became nervous. Few scientific studies have been done about the value of peer services versus traditional services.

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