Mental health for the homeless

Mental health issues can increase the risk of becoming and remaining homeless and can also make essential aspects of self-sufficiency nearly impossible to accomplish. In order for homeless clients to retain steady employment, pay bills and maintain healthy relationships, stable mental health is essential.

Since 1993, the Coalition has relied on our on-site partner Lakeside Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. (LBHC), the leading provider of mental health services in Orange County, to meet the mental health needs of homeless clients. Through their Project for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH), Lakeside Outreach Specialists provide outreach or case management services to clients with varying levels of mental illness.

“Our primary goal is outreach,” explains Path Lead Karen Hom, LCSW. “We’ll talk to anybody who wants to come and meet with us.

Coalition clients are referred to the PATH program by their case manager. Once contact with Lakeside is made, Outreach Specialists assess the specific needs of clients, offering access to the medication clinic, individual therapy, the Residential Treatment Facility, outside agencies and services, and crisis intervention as needed.

Several exciting changes have occurred in the past year in LBHC: the program has now expanded its assessment of client eligibility to allow intake paperwork and the scheduling of psychiatric appointments to be completed on-site. Since the majority of Coalition clients must walk or use public transportation, this practical service spares them the need for numerous off-site trips to obtain needed services. This year also brought a full-time peer counselor to the Coalition’s campus, a service that allows clients to connect with a counselor on a more personal level.

“Above all, we hope the program will improve the lives of the clients who are mentally ill and homeless, as well as help them find permanence and stability in the community,” concludes Karen.

In the past fiscal year, Lakeside maintained staff at Coalition for the Homeless five days a week, conducted an average of three client sessions daily and provided over 2,000 hours of support to Coalition staff and outreach to residents. This valuable service and fortunate on-site partnership has helped innumerable homeless individuals obtain a vital piece of the assistance they need to return to health and independence.

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