[Hpn] Fwd: Consumers Survive...

Coalition on Homelessness, SF coh@sfo.com
Thu, 27 Jul 2000 23:20:31 -0700

>Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2000 18:42:34 -0700
>To: coh@sfo.com
>From: "Coalition on Homelessness, SF" <coh@sfo.com>
>Subject: Consumers Survive...
>wm@videoactivism.org, Homewardnews@geocities.com, 
>gnn@grassrootsnews.org, sfzcoutreach@yahoo.com, 
>homelessworld@blazingstar.org, NHhomeless@egroups.com, 
>dwellej@aol.com, poormag@sirius.com, editor@sfbayview.com, 
>spirit@afsc.org, malin.speace@situationstockholm.se, 
>steve@unite-to-fight.org, rggoudy@pathlink.com, vandu@vcn.bc.ca, 
>Consumers Survive Devastating Cuts to Community Mental Health
>The Coalition's Substance (Ab)use/Mental Health Work Group (SAMH) 
>entered this year with a plan to organize mental health consumers 
>and survivors to rebuild and reshape our mental health treatment 
>system for the second straight year. Admittedly, we knew our efforts 
>were ambitious - we had no choice but to fight against the many 
>systemic injustices affecting some of the most disenfranchised and 
>oppressed people seeking our City-funded mental health services. 
>Services that are accessible in the community have eroded for over 
>three decades, resulting in thousands of people with mental 
>illnesses being denied voluntary services and living on the streets. 
>In fact, just last year the City of San Francisco admitted in public 
>documents that only about one-half of those qualified for and 
>seeking publicly-funded treatment could actually manage to access 
>any services.
>All our work on the mental health system is directly based on 
>feedback we get from homeless people with mental health issues. 
>These folks have been asking for housing, treatment, one-on-one 
>counseling, access to SSI benefits advocacy, 24-hour services and a 
>whole host of changes that we must institute in San Francisco before 
>we can truly begin meeting these people's needs. Consumers and 
>survivors direct our agenda, and if they have the time they are 
>engaged on a daily basis in our struggle for change.
>This campaign started two years ago, and it took almost that long 
>just to get our first objective met, which was to fund outpatient 
>treatment. This included creating new models representing a 
>departure from traditional clinical models to better serve those 
>mental health consumers who have historically been denied access to 
>treatment. However, as this years budget process progressed, it 
>became clear that we would not only be fighting for expanded 
>treatment, but also fighting against yet another round of senseless 
>and dangerous cuts to Community Mental Health Services - cuts which 
>threatened to set our modest efforts back several years.
>During the budget process, the Dept. of Public Health repeatedly 
>declared that their "plan" was to move people from hospital-based 
>care to community-level care. But that same Department also proposed 
>cutting Community Mental Health Services by $4.7 million, including 
>the elimination of 330 community-based outpatient mental health 
>treatment slots, and an additional $600,000 taken from outpatient 
>treatment for uninsured individuals. This would have been equivalent 
>to closing one whole mental health clinic in San Francisco and would 
>have disproportionately affected non-English speaking communities.
>Consumers, survivors and their allies, through the Coalition on 
>Homelessness, fought against these irresponsible cuts at every level 
>of decision making, from the Dept. of Public Health all the way to 
>the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. We held a colorful and 
>creative direct action in front of City Hall, showed up in large 
>numbers at public hearings, and met with the Health Department, the 
>Mayor's office and almost every Supervisor. We sent hundreds of 
>postcards, made countless calls, worked to get stories in the media 
>- and we didn't let up for a moment.
>The Dept. of Public Health and the Mayor ignored our concerns in 
>their proposed budgets, but the lost funds were finally re-instated 
>by the Board of Supervisors. Some additional funds from a legal 
>settlement were found at the last minute, and Supervisor Sue Bierman 
>negotiated with the Mayor's office to earmark these funds for mental 
>health treatment. Over $1,000,000 was added back into the budget, 
>and in addition, Supervisor Michael Yaki pushed to support funding 
>for one of the six initiatives we were struggling to have added to 
>the budget. This was $100,000 for peer-based treatment - 
>successfully added back into the budget with help from Board 
>President Tom Ammianno.
>Budget constraints have meant that Community Mental Health Services 
>has been ordered to freeze salaries since September, 1999 - 
>resulting in 64 positions remaining unfilled. 71% of these positions 
>are clinical, and have resulted in diminished capacity to deliver 
>the least expensive level of service. These vacant positions have 
>led to all major mental health clinics being closed to new intakes, 
>elimination of services for non-English speakers, and an inability 
>to respond to medication needs in a timely manner. The Department is 
>supposed to start filling these positions this month, but only time 
>will tell if another hiring freeze doesn't get implemented first.
>With all the recent advances in psychiatric treatment, and in this 
>booming economy, it is simply unacceptable that anyone should 
>suffer, become homeless or die due to the effects of a treatable 
>condition simply because they are poor. These cuts were not 
>tolerated - nor should they have been. We have a long road ahead of 
>us to secure fair and just funding for mental health, institute many 
>badly needed changes to the mental health system, and ensure that 
>people with mental health issues have a voice that is heard.
>We will not be silenced, nor will we go away.
>The Substance (Ab)use/ Mental Health Work Group of the Coalition on 
>Homelessness meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 5:00 at 
>995 Market, Suite 1018. For more information or to get on our 
>mailing list, please call Jennifer Friedenbach at (415) 346-3740.
>The Coalition on Homelessness brings together homeless people and 
>front line service providers to create permanent solutions to 
>homelessness, including housing, treatment, employment and 
>childcare, while working to protect the human and civil rights of 
>homeless people forced to remain on the streets.

Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
vox: (415) 346.3740
Fax: (415) 775.5639