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The UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health has received a $2.4 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address homelessness and provide comprehensive behavioral care and other services for individuals living with serious mental illnesses who are experiencing or who are at risk for homelessness. One of five homeless individuals are impacted by serious mental illness.

Project “Homelink” will serve individuals in Wake,Orange and Chatham counties. Thava Mahadevan, MS, director of operations at the Center and the recovery programs at the UNC Farm at Penny Lane, is Principal Investigator for the five-year grant.

“Individuals with serious mental illness need assistance in managing both their physical and mental health care and day-to-day living,” said Mahadevan. “Along with securing and maintaining housing, there is a tremendous need for them to receive evidence-based (latest scientific practices) behavioral (mental health and substance abuse) and physical health care.”

The Homelink team will focus on individuals who are: chronically homeless; living in assisted living facilities who are at risk of becoming homeless; transitioning from institutional settings; receiving assertive community treatment or outpatient services; or who are at risk of homelessness. They anticipate serving 100 individuals annually and 500 persons during the entire project.

The team is comprised of a housing specialist, a peer support specialist and occupational therapist. They will assist participants in finding stable and affordable housing and will teach them independent living skills that are necessary to maintain housing as well as manage health care needs.  They will also link participants to other resources for health care, insurance, Medicaid, and mainstream benefits from programs such as Supplemental Social Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

“We know that stable housing and other social and community factors are key drivers of health care costs as well as health outcomes and quality of life,” said John Gilmore, MD, director of the Center, vice chair, Research and Scientific Affairs and Eure Professor of Psychiatry, UNC Department of Psychiatry.

Antoine Bailliard, PhD, associate professor, Duke university school of medicine OTD program, integrate occupational therapy into the comprehensive services provided.

“In addition to providing direct services for those in need, the grant will provide training (internships) opportunities for UNC’s nursing, social work, clinical rehabilitation, counseling and rehabilitation, occupational therapy and psychology students,” said Mahadevan.