McCright: A call to action on housing the mentally ill in Chattanooga

McCright: A call to action on housing the mentally ill in Chattanooga

April 15th, 2019 by Elizabeth McCright in Opinion Columns

Betsy McCright speaks to the editors of the Times Free Press in this 2018 staff file photo.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

With more than 6,000 rental units in Hamilton County, the Chattanooga Housing Authority is the largest provider of affordable rental housing.

In our public housing portfolio of properties CHA owns, manages, and maintains, we offer independent living apartments to people with average incomes of $9,318 annually. CHA residents have state and federally mandated lease agreements governed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations.

But what happens when a resident is unable to comply with the lease terms due to mental health issues, often exacerbated by the resident's inability to understand the importance of taking prescribed medications or seeking appropriate treatment? Under these circumstances, the CHA staff is required to balance the interests of lease-abiding neighbors with those of residents who may have issues that include hoarding, pest infestation, unsanitary living conditions, fire safety concerns, and non-emergency calls to 911. These lease-abiding neighbors want and deserve a pleasant and safe place to live, and it is CHA's desire and duty to provide them with that.

The CHA staff identifies available resources and refers residents to services that might enable them to continue to live independently, but we cannot require them to accept assistance; we cannot require them to take medications; and we cannot require family members to involve themselves in helping to solve the problems. In fact, when a resident's situation deteriorates significantly, family support often evaporates.

What happens to these residents who end up living in extreme isolation without engaged family members, friends, church family, access to physical and mental health services, and a host of other supports that many Chattanoogans take for granted?

CHA provides one piece of the puzzle. We provide a home. But CHA is not a licensed provider of assisted living, nursing home care, congregate care or hospice care.

Those circumstances demand greater community involvement in the way of medical and mental health care, better access to affordable health insurance, and individualized counseling. Without a comprehensive community support system, tragically, the most vulnerable residents face eviction and potential homelessness. CHA's mission is to provide housing. Eviction is always the last resort, only after tireless efforts to preserve a tenancy have failed.

The CHA is grateful for existing community partnerships. Mayor Andy Berke's Interagency Council on Homelessness is working diligently to coordinate a network of resources and streamline the process for housing the homeless.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is spearheading the Frequent Users Systems Engagement [FUSE) initiative, a movement to house people with persistent and continuous mental health issues who are frequent users of jails and hospitals. FUSE proposed to provide housing and 24/7 access to medical and mental health assistance.

CHI Memorial recently opened a medical clinic on site at CHA's Boynton Terrace Apartments that specializes in elderly health care. There are countless other organizations that serve Chattanooga's most vulnerable citizens.

Chattanooga needs more truly affordable options for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, congregate care, hospice care, and other types of wraparound services, and CHA stands ready to collaborate on these types of initiatives.

After all, everyone in Chattanooga deserves a place to live with dignity.

Elizabeth McCright is executive director of the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com


Loading...