Substance Abuse, Mental Health, and Homelessness


Substance Abuse, Mental Health, and Homelessness

This week (May 18-May 24) is National Prevention Week, an annual health observance intended to increase awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. Supported by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), this week is an opportunity for community members to collaborate with other individuals, organizations, and coalitions to promote prevention efforts, educate others about behavioral health issues, and build and strengthen community partnerships. Watch this video to learn more about National Prevention Week and SAMHSA’s efforts.

Why is awareness of, and action around, these issues an important component of One Roof’s work to prevent and end homelessness?

Substance abuse and serious mental illnesses are factors that may contribute to a person experiencing homelessness. When we educate the community about issues related to homelessness, we note that people in our community experience homelessness for various reasons. A person may experience homelessness because they:

  • lack acceptance from family, friends, and community members
  • lack a safe space free from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • lack emotional and/or financial support
  • experience economic instability
  • are unable to plan for ongoing crisis
  • have aged out of foster care, left incarceration, left hospital or psychiatric treatment without appropriate discharge planning and supports in place
  • abuse substances / self-medicate due to underlying issues
  • live with severe mental illnesses
  • live with disabling physical and/or mental health conditions
  • live with HIV/AIDS

More specifically, a person’s substance abuse or serious mental illness may:

  • compromise existing support systems
  • be a result of non-acceptance and/or a poor support system
  • be a result of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • limit their ability to be economically stable and self-sufficient
  • be a result of leaving foster care, incarceration, or hospital or psychiatric treatment without appropriate planning and supports in place
  • cause them to self-medicate (or continue to self-medicate) due to underlying issues
  • result in disabling physical and/or mental health conditions
  • cause them to engage in high-risk behaviors that may result in a positive diagnosis for HIV

One Roof knows that a significant number of people experiencing homelessness in our community are living with serious mental illnesses and/or substance abuse. According to our 2014 Point-in-Time count, 1,329 people experience homelessness in central Alabama on any given night. Of these 1,329, nearly 32% reported living with a serious mental illness and 31% reported living with chronic substance abuse. It is our responsibility to advocate on behalf of clients, educate our community, and coordinate services to make sure these vulnerable individuals receive the best care possible.

Many of our member agencies and service providers are working diligently to meet the needs of people belonging to these vulnerable sub-populations. Follow the links below to learn more about some of our agencies who specifically offer services to individuals with serious mental illnesses or who have substance abuse issues:

  • Aletheia House provides substance abuse treatment and housing to pregnant women, parents of families, and men who struggle with addiction and alcoholism.
  • AIDS Alabama provides substance abuse interventions for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
  • JBS (Jefferson, Blount, & St. Clair) Mental Health Authority offers housing to persons living with serious mental illnesses, as well as mental health screenings, medications, and a street outreach team.
  • UAB Community Psychiatry & UAB REACT provide treatment, housing, and services for people with schizophrenia, mood disorders, severe anxiety disorders and co-occurring substance abuse disorders.
  • UAB TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safety Communities) is an alternative treatment program for individuals with substance abuse or mental health issues and who have been involved in the criminal justice system
  • The Foundry provides long and short term residential treatment to individuals struggling with substance abuse issues
  • Fellowship House provides substance abuse treatment options, including residential programs, to people struggling with addiction or alcoholism.

These are just a few examples of One Roof member agencies who do their best to provide resources to clients impacted by substance abuse or serious mental illnesses.  One Roof’s mission is to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness in central Alabama through advocacy, education, and coordination of services. Preventing and ending homelessness includes serving community members who are experiencing homelessness and living with substance abuse issues and serious mental illnesses. Partner with One Roof and our member agencies to help end homelessness for these vulnerable subpopulations.

To stay involved and aware of One Roof’s efforts, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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