The lack of housing is a critical concern for Arizonans with serious mental illness in Arizona.
A survey conducted by ASU’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy identifies the top issues as housing (62 percent), prevention services (59 percent), and transportation (46 percent).
“Indeed, research shows the important role that housing plays in stabilizing individuals who might otherwise be on the streets,” said Michael Shafer, ASU professor and director of the center.
The survey pointed to access to affordable and safe housing, as well as the availability and funding of prevention services to help bend the trajectory of these diseases, he said.
“It’s largely an economic structural issue that is compounded by these diseases of mental illness and substance abuse,” Shafer said. “[In addition,] when you consider the fact that among individuals with serious mental illness, we have unemployment rates of upwards of 80 percent to 90 percent.”
Add to that problems with unreliable, unaffordable or simply unavailable transportation services, which can be one of the single largest barriers to accessing care, he said.
Also high on the priority list was access to crises services such as “mobile crises services, crises teams and places for individuals experiencing psychiatric distress to be able to go to,” he added.
The biggest takeaway, according to Shafer, is that while Arizona really stands above the shoulders in comparison to other states in regard to serious mental health services, the structure and availability of services for people with less severe forms of mental illness could be better.
“Individuals whose disease hasn’t gotten so bad that they’ve lost their job, they’ve lost their house, [or] they’re now indigent,” he said. “Access to those kids of services aren’t so good.”
The other big takeaway, Shafer said, is the dire need for services for kids.
“For children and adolescents that are experiencing the onset of mental illness or are experiencing some emotional problems,” he said, “the availability to early intervention and treatment services for them, support services for their parents, is sorely lacking.”
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