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Mental Health Scientists

Why San Diego Needs Mental Health Scientists: Intervention for Veterans, Children, Women, and Families

Dear San Diegans,

As you may know the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” a comprehensive plan to prevent and end homelessness in America (p. 3).  The Federal strategic plan is comprised of four goals. Goal (1): finish the job in ending chronic homelessness by 2015; goal (2): prevent and end homelessness among Veterans by 2015; goal (3): prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children by 2020; goal (4): set a path to ending all types of homelessness (p. 3).

Housing and Urban Developments Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, which are Point In Time Estimates of homelessness.  The following findings will reflect how family trauma impacts child, youth, and parent homelessness.  Additionally, provide a solution and intervention to assist families and create a prevention model for families based on child intervention.

Recent findings reports that in the United States more than one hundred and thirty-eight thousand of our children are homeless on a given night, which is nearly one quarter of the entire homeless population (138,149)(AHAR 2013, p. 1).  Of those children more than 6,000 are unaccompanied and homeless, and more than 3,500 of them will go unsheltered (AHAR 2013, p. 46).  Of those children who are homeless approximately 25 percent will be homeless youth aged out of foster care or have left the corrections systems (Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007; National Alliance to End Homelessness 2008).

Young adults who are 18-24 comprise 10 percent (61,541) of the homeless youth population (AHAR 2013, p. 1). Between 20 percent and 40 percent of homeless unaccompanied youth identify as gender and sexual minorities (Sears, & Badgett, 2012).

AHAR 2013 states that “Chronically Homeless People in Families refers people in families in which the head of household has a disability, and that has either been continuously homeless for 1 year or more or has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last 3 years” (p. 2).  Therefore, we are not targeting direct prevention for children and families with children who are experiencing homelessness from becoming chronically homeless.  The evidence is clear that child homelessness can damage development of the human brain, alter the chemical structuring, damage the wiring of systems and therefore can create a path of homelessness to chronic homelessness among families (Guarino et al. 2007). None of this evidence is factored into eliminating chronic homelessness with children and youth at this time, because too much emphasis is on disabilities and mental health status.  The classification that a parent has to have a mental health status not only creates a stigma, but a barrier for children and parents to receive services.

Point in Time Estimates are inherently flawed.  The PIT does not count children, youth, and families in transition as homeless if they are couch surfing, living with relatives, living in motels, or are in current transitional housing.  Additionally, the count does not reflect the stigmas and barriers that children, youth, and parents experience.  The PIT is not culturally competent and therefore does not have strong internal or external validity. The AHAR has not published research on our homeless families with children in 2016, 2015 2014, 2013 or 2012, which is a serious failing.  Additionally, statistics from the following years have low validity and are therefore untrustworthy because of substandard science.

San Diego County has not met goal one or goal two to end chronic homelessness by 2015.  Our community health will continue to be impacted: such as costs to emergency services, public health, moral, beauty, and cultural enlightenment.  We need more funding in order to facilitate qualitative measures to verify the need for resources to assist homeless veterans, women, men, and their children who are not chronically homeless by definition, yet are in an operationalized trauma informed work environment. We need strategic initiatives that will benefit Veterans, Children, Youth, Families and Persons in Transition who are at risk for chronic homelessness based on their trauma.  The way we identify the problem needs to change with a trauma informed perspective, of persons in environment, with strengths based goals, oriented and tasked centered approach.  With this we can form a needs assessment and measure long term impact on veterans, children, youth, and parents.  The intervention is a comprehensive trauma-informed program that will be implemented within a framework focused on the family.  Upon initiation of the intervention, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Survey will be administered to all persons. To prevent long-term negative mental health and physical health outcomes, and to facilitate positive long-term outcomes, by implementing a trauma-informed model in all public schools from kindergarten (or earlier) through 12th grade.

Social Workers will implement an outcome evaluation in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.  By monitoring key indicators across time, we will show this type comprehensive intervention is effective at addressing trauma experiences, successfully decreasing adverse consequences, and increasing positive outcomes for families.  As a result of our evaluation, we will to show this comprehensive framework of trauma-informed services should be implemented across the country to better support our veterans, children, youth, and families with early intervention.  Together, we can implement the most comprehensive long term predictor for costs to the City, County, and United States with mental health risks, physical health risks, homelessness, and affordable housing.  The ACE will determine if any student is at risk, which reflects the risk to the family.  The ACE is a comprehensive survey reflecting the family environment.

I therefore propose the ACE become the benchmark for all City and County trauma informed interventions which focus on the family environment and the individual’s trauma.

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