Mayor de Blasio’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System Plan Released

CSH applauds the Administration’s plans to address the high number of people in need of mental health treatment who cycle in and out of New York City’s jails. Mayor de Blasio’s plan significantly expands public health services at almost every step of the criminal justice system. The plan cites a report on 400 New Yorkers who have been admitted to jail more than 18 times in the last five years and present an even higher prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorder than the general jail population. This group accounted for over 10,000 jail admissions and 300,000 days in jail during the five years examined in the report.[1]

We know that many of these people are also in need of safe affordable housing with supports to help live healthy lives in our communities. CSH recently established a Reentry Housing workgroup to develop policy recommendations to outline the housing needs of people reentering the community from jail or prison. CSH’s NYC FUSE pilot used supportive housing as an intervention for people trapped in the cycle of homelessness and criminal justice. FUSE participants averaged just over two-weeks of shelter stays in the 24 months after placement into housing as compared to the 164 days in shelters spent by the comparison group. Overall FUSE generated a $15,000 cost offset for each participant.

Mayor de Blasio’s plan includes several action steps related to housing for persons reentering the community from the criminal justice system:

Expand reach of discharge programs to minimize disruption in Medicaid coverage, connect people with housing and services prior to release, and connect those who are eligible are connected to Health Home care coordination.

Expand access to supportive housing and other services to persons returning to the community through:

  • launching a 267 unit scattered-site supportive housing program focused on individuals with behavioral health needs and a history of cycling through the criminal justice system who have struggled with homelessness based on the FUSE program, and
  • establishing a housing planning team to assess access to more supportive, affordable, and public housing for justice involved individuals with behavioral health issues.

The Administration has allocated $130 million over four years to the steps outlined in the plan, of which $40 million is asset forfeiture funds contributed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. CSH is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this report focused on breaking the revolving door of arrest, incarceration and release that has trapped many homeless individuals in the system for relatively minor offenses.

[1] Rikers Island Hotspotters Analysis, Bureau of Correctional Health Services, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, July 2014.

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