Psychiatrists Develop Outreach Program For Metro Atlanta Homeless
In the first
collaboration of its kind in metro Atlanta, Emory University School
of Medicine and Grady Health System are working together through Central
Fulton Community Mental Health Center to provide integrated psychiatric
outreach services to the city's homeless who are severely mentally ill
and in need of comprehensive mental health and medical services. The
collaboration is made possible through a special appropriation of state
funds from the Fulton Regional Board.
The program supports two
Homeless Outreach Psychiatry Evaluation (HOPE) teams developed in part
by Emory faculty members Rosalind Mance, M.D., medical director of Community
Outreach Services and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry
and Behavioral Sciences, and Catherine Peters, M.D., assistant professor
in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The goal of
the program is to reduce homelessness, incarceration, and hospitalization
and provide an integrated approach to treatment that focuses on community-based
treatment and principles of prevention and rehabilitation.
As part of the outreach program,
two teams of psychiatrists, nurses, case managers, substance abuse counselors,
and social workers work closely with several community shelters, homeless
service providers, the court and jail systems, and Grady mental health
programs. The phase of client recruitment focuses on active outreach
and engagement. The initial contact, as well as on-site intakes and
evaluations, are completed where individuals live and are already receiving
services: on the streets, in shelters, parks, and Georgia Regional Hospital.
Some of the community agencies involved include St. Joseph's Mercy Care
Services of Atlanta, as part of its Healthcare for the Homeless program;
the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children; Crossroads Ministries;
and the Task Force for the Homeless.
The purpose of the HOPE teams,
Dr. Peters notes, is to shift treatment of homeless individuals away
from emergency room settings and hospitals and to prevent relapse. The
ultimate goal of this treatment model is transition clients out of homelessness
by providing a continuum of care, including psychiatric, medical, and
case management services. The team provides psychiatric evaluation and
medication management along with case management services including
assistance with housing, income support, and vocational and legal issues.
The teams, which currently work with 115 homeless individuals, work
with clients for up to 24 months of treatment.
Clients are eligible for
HOPE services if they meet criteria for homelessness and severe mental
illness. Clients with dual diagnosis (those with a secondary diagnosis
of alcohol or drug dependence) are also eligible for the program.
"The need for mental health
treatment for the homeless is far bigger than one program can provide,
but the goal is to use this integrated model of psychiatric and social
services to address the needs of underserved homeless and mentally ill
individuals in Atlanta," Dr. Mance said. "In addition, an essential
need is for Atlanta to develop more specialized and supportive housing
options for this population."
The Atlanta Trijurisdiction
Continuum of Care's Year 2000 Gaps Analysis estimated that 5,775 homeless
persons per night in Atlanta were substance abusers, seriously mentally
ill, or dually diagnosed and in need of services. According to the 2001
Strategic Plan for Improved Services for the Homeless in Region 5, the
existing service capacity for this group was 1,637 per day, leaving
4,240 people, or 73 percent, with unmet needs.