Why Midland’s Open Door Has Licensed Health Therapists on Staff

Two Midland sheriffs escorted a shoeless Greg to the open door at midnight. He was found descending the M-20 without sufficient clothing to withstand the temperatures of February. It wasn’t the first time we had interacted with Greg; he’s been in and out of mid-Michigan shelters for the past 10 years.

Greg has a college degree, owned his own home, and was married with children before being diagnosed with schizophrenia. He never stays anywhere for very long, so connecting him to resources to help him gain stability has proven difficult. Greg and his frequent but short stays are one of the many reasons Midland’s Open Door has licensed mental health therapists to its staff.

It’s no secret that the stigma against those struggling with mental health crosses all levels of society, from the materially rich to the materially poor. The judgment that often accompanies therapy, medications, and diagnostics means that those who need help most are often most afraid to ask for it, especially when faced with another crisis like homelessness.

According to the latest study from the Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness, conducted in 2019, 44% of homeless people in Michigan suffer from a long-term mental or physical health problem. Of these 44%, two-thirds of the homeless suffer from a serious mental health problem that classifies them as disabled.

If this health crisis remained the only problem affecting the homeless, solutions would be easier to find. Sadly, mental health is only one part of the many challenges faced by homeless people or at risk of becoming homeless. Housing shortage, food insecurity, incarceration, drug addiction, unemployment and underemployment – each complication worsens the effects of poor mental health.

For example, chronic homelessness, as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, includes a person who has been homeless and has been homeless for at least one year or on at least four separate occasions in the past three years, and may be diagnosed with a serious health problem, including serious mental illness. In the case of those who suffer from chronic homelessness, mental health issues put an additional burden on an already tired pair of shoulders.

Midland’s Open Door employs two licensed mental health therapists to serve clients staying at a shelter, visiting the soup kitchen, or participating in other ministry programs. For many guests, especially those like Greg who are chronically homeless, meeting with a therapist at the open door can be less intimidating and can happen more quickly than making an appointment.

“We never know how long someone will be staying with us, so we work quickly to provide immediate care and an immediate connection to community resources such as community mental health,” said Rebecca Jones, Registered Therapist and Director of shelters and outreach programs for Open Door. “For chronically homeless people, the collaboration with Community Mental Health has provided flexibility and better care for our chronically homeless friends who suffer from a serious mental health diagnosis.

The Open Door case management team also uses holistic assessments to address clients’ mental health needs, making internal and external referrals for therapy. By meeting each person where they are in their journey, instead of placing them in a single agenda, staff allow guests to look at their lives from a self-perspective, including ensuring their own improvement. Mental Health. .

The Open Door Shelter and Outreach teams also rely on ministry-approved therapists for mental health emergencies like suicidal ideation and for mental health education, providing best practice instruction and mentoring for l ‘team. For our chronically homeless neighbors like Greg, the Open Door continues to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; not only to meet someone’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, but also to start or continue individual mental health care.

Renee Pettinger is the Executive Director of Midland’s Open Door.

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