Commentary: Housing Is A Foundational Need
While Wichita does comparatively well minimizing homelessness compared to similar cites, hundreds of people still live on our streets and in our shelters. And we know that mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, and substance use disorders are significantly more common in the homeless population. But when you don’t know where you will sleep that night, or if you will eat that day, you’re not likely to seek treatment for mental illness, be actively involved in searching for a job, or place top priority on addictive concerns.
Housing is therefore a foundational need for our city. Once these homeless individuals are provided with safe and stable housing, mental health organizations throughout south central Kansas have the ability to surround them with the treatment options they need to seek gainful employment, re-connect with their family, and receive the proper combination of medication and counseling services to address their mental illnesses. It also removes a significant drain on taxpayer-subsidized services like non-reimbursed emergency room care, and police, fire, and EMT calls.
Comprehensive mental health care needs to include more than just case management and therapists for people across the age spectrum. It needs to include social services like medication management, housing, and job training as well. Mental illness is a complex issue for our city, and we deserve equally broad resources to address it.
Links to more information can be found at MHANational.org. KMUW’s mental health series is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.
Eric Litwiller is the director of development and communications at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas.