Many people who are chronically homeless are mentally ill. They also have frequent interactions with the law enforcement system. They get arrested a lot, and many of them tend to spend a lot of time in jail.
““Probably about $400,000 a year is what we spend just on psychotropic drugs to treat the mentally ill. I’ll tell you, we are the largest mental health facility in East Tennessee,” says Jones.”
That quotation comes from a story (Sheriff: 1 in 5 Knox Co. inmates is mentally ill) published at WATE yesterday.
Sheriff Jones advocates an overhaul of the present system, one that includes permanent supportive housing, which is the cornerstone of the Ten-Year Plan. Our plan commits us to permanently housing homeless people as rapidly as possible while providing those now-housed people with customized supportive social services to ensure that the greatest possible number of them stays successfully housed and moves towards independence. This model is humane, it is tested and proven, and it is cost-effective. You can learn much more about it here.
Permanent supportive housing reduces the amount of money a community spends to serve homeless people. People in permanent supportive housing dramatically reduce their need for, and consumption of, psychiatric inpatient services, and other emergency services, such as emergency rooms, jails, and emergency shelters.
In communities in which the model has been applied, the cost of Permanent Supportive Housing is offset by savings in emergency services, jails, and law enforcement.
Permanent supportive housing is the right thing to do. As Sheriff Jones points out, people who are mentally ill need treatment, not incarceration. Some of the Knox County jail’s most frequent repeat inmates are chronically homeless people who are mentally ill, and jail’s not the best place for them to be. We’re glad to have such a strong advocate in Sheriff Jones.