Testimony: Oversight: Mental Health Services In DHS Shelters

Testimony & Public Comments

November 7, 2016

On November 21, 2016, CCC testified before the City Council General Welfare and Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Committees about Mental Health Services in DHS shelters serving families with children.  CCC also testified in favor of Int. 0932-2015, which would require the Department of Homeless Services to create an annual report regarding mental health services provided to individuals and families in the shelter system.

Homelessness is a traumatic experience for both adults and children, and the shelter system must be designed not only to meet the needs of families coping with trauma but to not inflict additional trauma and emotional distress. Homelessness, particularly when families are placed far from their communities, schools, friends, service providers and support systems, often disrupts children’s schooling, disconnects families from their communities and services, and makes it more difficult for adults to maintain gainful employment.  CCC testified that it is important that the shelter system itself operate in a trauma-informed manner and be able to provide swift access to mental health services when they are needed.

CCC recommendations included:

  • Increase shelter capacity so that families were no longer placed in hotels or cluster sites and could be placed in their communities when it was safe.
  • Provide on-site mental health services and/or have linkages in place to make referrals expeditiously.
  • Expand the use of services for the most vulnerable homeless families such as homevisiting and the City Council’s trauma initiative for children under 5 in shelter.
  • Increase the Number of Licensed Master Social Workers in NYC Schools and Baseline Funding for the 33 Currently Funded.
  • Train all DHS and provider staff in trauma-informed care.

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