Path Aids Homeless Mentally Ill

September 22, 1991|By Cindy Parr | Cindy Parr,Contributing writer

A federal grant will enable the county Mental Health Bureau to expand services this fall to help homeless people who are mentally ill.

Through Projects for Assistance in the Transition from Homelessness,or PATH, additional efforts will be made on behalf of the homeless mentally ill, said Howard Held, director of the Mental Health Bureau.

The bureau will use the money to help the homeless in county shelters who are having difficulty coping.

"These federal funds will provide us with $16,000 to $19,000, which will allow us to hire a mental health professional part time to deal with the homeless who are suffering from mental illness," Held said.

Carroll was one of nine counties in the state that applied last spring for part of $463,916 infederal grants made available through the state Mental Hygiene Administration.

"Federal funds became available, and we (Mental Health Administration) applied for a grant based on proposals from the counties interested in securing funds for the homeless mentally ill," saidJames Stockdill, the agency's deputy director.

"As a director of mental health services in the community, I find that there are a number of target groups that need services provided or enhanced," said Held. "The homeless are one of those groups.

"We were becoming awareof the number of homeless mentally ill in Carroll County, and we wanted to be in a better position to help these people than we had been in the past," he said.

"What we are hoping is that the grant will help us get some crisis intervention in the shelters," said Lynda Gainor, deputy director of Human Services Programs for Carroll County.

"For example, if there is someone in the shelter who is exhibiting an unusually tense or emotional behavior that may escalate to a physical level, this will allow us to bring in a trained mental health professional to evaluate the situation and see if there is a need for hospitalization," she said.

"What we are running into in our four shelters is an average of 1 1/2 people a month who are exhibiting signsof mental distress," she said.

Held said that a part-time mental health professional will be able to offer intervention, help train staff people to identify problems, and fill other gaps.

"This part-time staff person will spend time in the shelters and will be able to provide counseling and function as an advocate for the individual," he said.

"If there are any other problems, such as medical or social needs, the staff person will be able to coordinate resources and make sure people receive the help they need."

The Mental Health Bureau has not received the money but did obtain written confirmation a week ago.

Stockdill said he expects the federal funding for PATH tocontinue at the same level next year.

"We foresee these funds being repeated for fiscal year 1992-1993, and possibly additional funds to expand for new projects," he said.

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