NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mental Health Treatment For The Homeless And Ex-Inmates

May 15, 2001

An innovative state mental health program for the homeless and those recently released from jail has shown dramatic progress in reducing hospitalizations, jail time and homelessness, according to a new California state legislative report.

Since its inception in November 1999, the Community Mental Health Treatment Program has enrolled more than 1,100 people in three counties -- Los Angeles, Sacramento and Stanislaus.

The program offers less debilitating medications, and uses aggressive outreach and the promise of housing and job training to enroll patients. It also provides intensive counseling and medical attention, group therapy and even a money manager who will hold their government benefit checks and help them pay their bills.

  • The report found that hospitalizations for participants dropped 77.7 percent from the previous year; the number of days they spent in jail declined 84.6 percent and the number of days spent homeless fell 69 percent.
  • The money saved from reduced hospitalizations and jail time exceeded $7.3 million.
  • Among the more than 800 program participants in Los Angeles County, homelessness declined 55 percent from the previous year, jail time decreased 82 percent and full-time employment increased substantially, by 155 percent.

An estimated 50,000 homeless people in California and 15 percent of the state's jail and prison population suffer from severe mental illness. State officials expanded the project this year to 32 other cities and counties and increased funding from an initial $14 million to $55 million. Besides expanding the program, funding this year provided more services for young adults coming out of foster care.

Source: Carla Rivera, "Mentally Ill Find Dramatic Success in State Program," Los Angles Times, May 12, 2001.


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