COMMUNITY HOUSING AS A PREVENTATIVE TOOL
ARIZONA PEER & FAMILY COALITION POSITION STATEMENT
The Arizona Peer & Family Coalition (APFC) supports the identification and allocation of additional funding to provide a full range of housing solutions for adults and families with mental health and substance use challenges in Arizona, including full restoration of the Arizona Housing Trust Fund. APFC strongly encourages the consideration of additional supportive housing programs in our community as a way to avoid costlier settings, such as inpatient or locked settings. We offer solutions and adjustments that respect human rights, save money and uphold evidence-based practices. According to a 2020 study done in Canada, an average savings of almost $22 for every $10 invested was found. In addition, the Foundation for Senior Living reports that their Assisted Group Living program costs 83% less than standard institutionalized care for people with a SMI diagnosis.2
The APFC was established in 2009 with a mission of advocating for, connecting, promoting, and developing leadership by peers and family members throughout our state. Today, the APFC has approximately 180 members located throughout the state and represents the perspectives of individuals and family members who have first-hand lived experience navigating the publicly funded behavioral health system for themselves or on behalf of a loved one with mental illness. The APFC educates our law makers to influence policy, while participating in community organizing and civic leadership efforts. We want to be part of the solution and are available to participate in systems change work.
IMPORTANCE OF PREVENTION
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Unfortunately, mental disorders increase the likelihood of physical health impairment and diseases that impact individuals, families, and society. Therefore, it is imperative to institute effective prevention methods to improve mental health. In addition, preventative measures will likely decrease suicide, attempted suicides, and improve overall health and the quality of life. According to Mental Health America, people with mental and substance use conditions lose access to housing because of poverty and disruption of personal relationships related to their disability.
All people deserve the dignity of stable and affordable housing, despite whether they live with or without Serious Mental Illness or Substance Use Disorders. Prevention means people with lived experiences are better able to manage their physical health which will enable individuals to:
- participate in the job market, which enhances the vitality of the economy,
- maintain housing which decreases homelessness,
- stay out of jails, hospitals, and mental institutions, which means they are more likely to hold jobs, keep families intact, and become active members of society.
These factors are the intersection of physical and mental health and the significance of prevention due to the influence on aspects of daily life.
PREVENTION AND HOUSING
Poverty, lack of affordable housing, unemployment, trauma, mental and substance abuse issues, domestic violence, etc. are just a few of the many risk factors that contribute to homelessness. Housing can help address the root causes of homelessness with a variety of recovery support services.
Peer support workers bring their own personal knowledge of what it is like to live and thrive with mental health conditions and substance use disorders. They support people’s progress towards recovery and self-determined lives by sharing vital experiential information and real examples of the power of recovery.
Research Conducted by the Corporation for Supportive Housing shows the benefits of Supportive Housing & outcomes:
- Studies show that supportive housing positively affects housing stability, employment, mental and physical health, and school attendance. People in supportive housing live more stable and productive lives.
- Cost studies in six different states and cities found that supportive housing results in tenants’ decreased use of homeless shelters, hospitals, emergency rooms, jails and prisons.
- Further evidence shows that supportive housing benefits communities by improving the safety of neighborhoods, beautifying city blocks with new or rehabilitated properties, and increasing or stabilizing property values over time.”
1. We recommend full restoration of the Arizona Housing Trust Fund.
2. We recommend supportive services to individuals who need help in maintaining housing, such as advocating with their landlord.
3. We recommend expedited access to permanent supportive housing for adults and families with mental health and substance use challenges who do not have housing. The Housing First Model (HFM) effectively demonstrates notable enhancements in overall quality of life and societal engagement by removing barriers that people with SMI and SUD’s face by providing individuals and families with housing, including wrap-around case management services. HFM benefits residents by creating permanent and affordable housing. The Permanent Supportive Housing: Assessing the Evidence review found that “components of the model reduced homelessness, increased housing tenure, and decreased emergency room visits and hospitalization.”
In Arizona, we have two supportive housing programs that have been proven to be effective – the Foundation for Senior Living’s Assisted Group Living (AGL) and Copa Health’s Lighthouse Support Housing program. The FSL’s AGL program started in 1993 as a community based alternative for older individuals residing at the Arizona State Hospital (ASH). The purpose of this strategy was to reduce costs at the ASH and provide quality community based alternative for older individuals who were seriously mentally ill. We encourage the expansion of similar programs.
4. We recommend accountability for all housing providers, such as ensuring they provide their residents with a sense of safety that would include a warm body to check in and be available 24/7. In addition, we encourage connection to the outside community to ensure residents are successful in their home and productive members of the community. Lastly, we encourage housing providers to obtain further education in mental health and substance abuse; with hopes they can better understand recovery and the need for flexibility around housing rules.
5. We recommend minimizing, and ideally eliminating, the housing wait lists.