Read “Recovery and Homeless Services: New Directions for the Field” to learn more about the need for recovery-oriented care in homeless services. It’s part of the HRC Special Issue on “The Future of Homeless Services."
A year and a half ago, Multnomah County, Oregon asked Central City Concern to take over a community mental health center in downtown Portland. At the time, the center had enrolled 500 people with mental illness who were at risk of homelessness. However, the center was in severe financial crisis. It was losing nearly half a million dollars a year.
Central City Concern analyzed the situation. They had significant concerns that it might be difficult to engage current patients in services located in other parts of the city. They proposed to create a new, centralized, and permanent home for integrated behavioral health services – a Recovery Center – and applied for funding from the Recovery Act.
Today, Central City Concern is the recipient of $8.9 million in Recovery Act funding through the Health and Resources Services Administration (HRSA). There were over 600 applications considered for 85 available grants.
Central City Concern is now in the process of building the 12th Avenue Recovery Center. Ed Blackburn, Executive Director of Central City Concern explains that the new center will focus on healing, movement, meditation, and socialization, in addition to the current range of outpatient services. The center will also offer primary care services. “This is a recovery model for mental health that will offer people a journey from isolation and trauma, to an integrated existence where they can successfully manage their own lives,” says Ed. It will not be heavily dependent on traditional therapy, but rather on the cycle of community life.
Ed believes in the power of the healing center model to reach people who have been stigmatized and separated from the community. The healing center model makes no distinctions between primary care, mental health services, and community healing. “It is not a silo model, but a healing model. We are all healing from something. For people with histories of trauma and pain, the 12th Avenue Recovery Center will offer the possibility of significant transformation,” says Ed.
“I believe that taking someone and putting them in a suburban apartment does not allow full integration,” explains Ed. “We want to move away from this model, towards healing, peer support, the cycle of community life, and self-care. Our new center will offer this opportunity for healing.”
With the new center, Central City Concern expects to be able to serve an additional 1,400 primary care patients a year. They will increase capacity to offer mental health services to serve 100 more people in addition to the 450 they currently serve.
Ed believes that linking primary care and mental health services is crucial. It will help create a synergy that can engage more people in the recovery center. Ultimately, he believes it will help people find greater stability in recovery, housing, and employment. The new center will offer people the opportunity to positively impact their own lives and the collective life of the community.
Central City Concern has purchased a vacant building that had been a community eyesore for years to house the new Recovery Center. The building will be LEED Gold certified, an internationally-recognized standard for green buildings. Central City Concern plans to break ground on the project in June 2010 and open the doors about thirteen months later. SERA Architects, a firm that has won national awards for sustainable design, will lead the project. The HRSA grant stipulates that all of the funding must be used for construction.
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