The Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) in White Plains, NY, does oversight and planning to help people who are experiencing both homelessness and a mental health disorder in Westchester County, New York. DCMH is a liaison with the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) of the Single Point of Access (SPOA) process, processing housing applications for anyone seeking housing through the New York State OMH. DCMH is also connected with the housing shelter system through the Westchester County Department of Social Services (DSS). The DCMH participates in the Westchester County Continuum of Care Partnership to End Homelessness (CoC). The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides funding for permanent supportive housing for people who have a disability, including a mental health disorder, and are homeless. For HUD-funded housing, a disability must be of long duration, must limit functioning, and is expected to be improved by housing, all as documented by a licensed professional. Homelessness must be verified by a homeless outreach worker. In some cases, the New York State OMH and the HUD programs overlap in that HUD will pay for rent while NYS OMH will pay for disability services, including mental health treatment services. Three levels of housing in Westchester County include a single apartment in the community; a treatment apartment with 3-4 people living together and staff nearby; and congregate care in a community residence with staff onsite. In the case of a single apartment in the community, wraparound services can be added, provided by an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team; these services are often billable to an individual’s Medicaid plan. The Westchester County DCMH contracts with local not-for-profit organizations to provide housing and case management services. A person who sees someone who appears to be homeless and appears to have a mental health disorder can make a phone call to reach out for help for this person. In 2021, Westchester County introduced Project Alliance, a 911-diversion system for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. There are eight county-wide mobile mental health crisis response teams, co-located at eight police departments in the county; the police and all dispatchers can deploy this team. A person can access the team by dialing the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which is answered locally. In a non-emergency situation, a person can call the local police department to access this team. A person also can call the Westchester County DCMH at (914) 995-5220 during office hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Westchester County has a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). Each January, DCMH conducts a Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of people experiencing homelessness, under the direction of HUD. There is a CoC homelessness work group that meets monthly about the people who have been identified as experiencing homelessness in Westchester. Soon, Westchester County will have an additional homeless outreach team as part of New York State’s Safe Options Support initiative.
Thank you to Annette M. Peters-Ruvolo, LCSW, Program Director, Community Support Services, Westchester County Department of Community Health, 112 East Post Road, White Plains, NY, for this interview, and to Michael Orth, M.S.W., Commissioner, Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health, for facilitating this interview.