Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Congress Approves New Homeless Programs

Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Congress Approves New Homeless Programs

Article excerpt

Congress Approves New Homeless Programs

Legislation was passed reauthorizing key components of the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, including programs to provide drug and alcohol services, and establishing new efforts to link drug and alcohol programs to housing assistance.

The bill, passed just under the wire as the books were closing on the 101st Congress, authorizes more than $900 million this fiscal year and next on various homeless programs, including some $380 million for the Bush administration's Shelter Plus Care initiative to provide rental assistance to the homeless who are seriously mentally ill or have chronic problems with alcohol, other drugs, or both. The other major new thrust is the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program which would expand services to the mentally ill, including those also diagnosed as substance abusers.

The Shelter Plus Care program, part of a housing initiative by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Jack Kemp, provides rental assistance to homeless individuals and their families who are seriously mentally ill, have chronic problems with alcohol and other drugs, or both. Rental assistance is linked to supportive services in order to assist program participants to live independently. The supportive services would be funded from other federal, state and local sources. Applicants for funding can be members of general local government, Indian tribes or states, and awards will be made by HUD through a national competition.

The PATH program will replace the current homeless blook grant for the mentally ill, a McKinney Act program now administered by the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration's (ADAMHA) office for Treatment Improvement (OTI), expanding it to include those who are diagnosed as both mentally ill and suffering from alcohol or drug abuse. Under terms of the legislation, the program would be administered by the National Institutute of Mental Health (NIMH). Funding authorization, which was $35 million in FY-90 for the mentally ill homeless block grant, will be raised to $75 million each year for the next three years, beginning in FY-91. In the FY-91 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations, Congress provided $26.1 million for the OTI homeless blcok grant -- funds which presumably would be switched to the PATH program under NIMH.

The PATH funds would be distributed to the states under a formula with a heavy urban weight. The legislation prescribes a minimum allotment of $300,000 for states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and $50,000 for Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands. However, provision is made for direct categorical grants to public and nonprofit entities in states which fail to file acceptable applications, or inform Health and Human Service (HHS) they do not plan to spend their full allotments.

States, in order to receive the PATH money, must agree to expend the funds solely for making grants to political subdivisions and to nonprofit private entities, including community-based veterans' organizations and other community organizations. These agencies, in turn, would provide services to homeless individuals suffering from serious mental illness or from serious mental illnesses and from substance abuse.

Services include outreach, screening and diagnostic treatment services, habilitation and rehabilitation services, community mental health services, alcohol or drug treatment services, staff training, case management, residential support services, referrals to health, job, education and housing services, and minor renovation, expansion and repair of housing. …

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