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By: Kiran Savage-Sangwan, Legislation & Public Policy Analyst NAMI California

At NAMI California, we know that there are many components to health and recovery, including access to a safe and stable home. However, approximately 40% of homeless adults are living with a serious mental illness, including too many of our young adults, our seniors and our veterans. These individuals often receive little to no mental health care, and what they do receive is inconsistently delivered in emergency rooms, jails and other facilities that rarely afford the individual the opportunity for long term support and recovery.

In California, the State is acknowledging the need to address the homeless population and offer health care services. This year, we will renew our 1115 “Bridge to Reform” Medicaid Waiver in partnership with the federal government. This gives California an opportunity to approach health care, including mental health care, with an eye to integration of services and the social determinants of health outcomes.

As NAMI California has long advocated, many adults with serious mental illness can live independently when affordable housing options and appropriate housing based supports are made available. In the 1115 Waiver, the State will be proposing ways to include mental health care services and tenancy support in housing developments so that currently homeless individuals living with mental illness may be appropriately supported in residences. NAMI California has made recommendations to strengthen the State’s proposal and you can read those here.

At the same time, we know that there is lack of affordable housing options of people living with serious mental illness. National average rent for a modestly priced one bedroom apartment is greater than the entire SSI income of a person living with a disability. Even the discretionary state SSI supplement has little impact on the ability of a person with mental illness to afford housing in California’s rental market.

The federal government and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development also need to address the issue by increasing federally subsidized housing units available to people with serious mental illness and other disabilities, and local municipalities need to be willing to utilize government incentive programs and build affordable housing when possible.

NAMI California is committed to continuing our advocacy on this issue. If you or a loved has been impacted by housing, please share your story with NAMI California so that we can continue to strengthen our advocacy.