Monday, November 28, 2011

Info Briefing Debrief: Clean and Sober Living Programs

Photo courtesy of May Mizuno
The House Committees on House, Human Services and Judiciary today held an informational briefing to discuss clean and sober living programs in Hawaii as an option to better address homelessness, focusing on those who suffer from mental illness and/ or substance addiction, policy and possible legislation.

Clean and sober homes are self-operated, generally self-funded, and drug free or supportive-type homes that provide individuals recovering from an addiction or behavioral health issues with a supportive network to promote sobriety.
Organizations who provided testimony and answered lawmakers’ questions were the Department of Human Services (DHS), Alahou Clean and Sober Program, Hina Mauka, and Harm Reduction Hawaii.

The following are some of the highlights from the briefing:

Sandra McCoy of Alahou Clean and Sober Program stated that more state funding is needed for programs on the Big Island.

Alahou expressed the need for state funding for Clean and Sober Programs. It cost $18 per bed to house clients; the program is currently only able to cover $13 per day.

Testifiers claim that there is an extreme need for more clean and sober programs as an estimated 4,000-5,000 people come through each year.

DHS does not fund or maintain any clean and sober facilities. There is “no direct funding for substance abuse.” The Department does not contract for direct services, but for the shelter and outreach services that provide the case management for homeless persons.

More than 50 percent of people in the programs are “dually diagnosed,” which means they suffer from significant mental illness and substance abuse. Alan Johnson, CEO of Hina Mauka, also said that it is most likely that 80-90 percent are mildly “dually diagnosed.”

It was suggested that all requested departmental studies filed on any subject be submitted to the reference bureau to avoid study duplication.

Patricia McManaman, Director of DHS, said that although clean and sober programs are important, there is also a large need for more “wet houses,” or homes where people can come into off the streets with an addiction, with the intent to transfer them to clean and sober houses.

Sandra McCoy, Alahou Clean and Sober Program, stated that her organization doesn’t turn anyone away, though people must have the intention to make a lifestyle change.

Rep. John Mizuno asked about the $1 million funding for Housing First, its progress, and if funding can be provided to clean and sober programs. Sandy Miyoshi said that by definition Housing First doesn’t have to be clean and sober programs; it is permanent housing to deal with issues of mental health and substance abuse. Because of limited funding and no promise of continued funding, the Department decided to focus on the urban core of Honolulu, where there are more chronically homeless. The Department did not want to spread funds out to wide without indication of sustainability and support.

It was suggested that the state provide financial mapping for service providers to determine who has funds to support/sustain broad variety of services.

Rep. Jordan expressed her concern of homelessness and clean and sober facilities on the Waianae Coast. She said that she was upset that we’re only dealing with the urban core and asked how the state can make it a balanced system.

It was suggested that a registry of all clean and sober homes be created for a clearer picture of what we are looking at in terms of services providers.

Alan Johnson, Hina Mauka, wrote in written testimony that “clean and sober housing arrangements are cost effective means to engage community support that helps transition recovering individuals back into the community. While quality could improve if government could afford to establish and monitor performance criteria, the self-run houses are a vast improvement over no housing arrangements.

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