Much vitriol is directed at visible homelessness without an understanding that it is partly the result of a behavioral health system that has never been properly funded, as Marie Lawrence’s excellent essay makes clear [“Too few benefit from the current mental-health system,” Sept. 4, Opinion].
My understanding is that pre-COVID there were only 98 treatment beds in King County for persons with co-occurring disorders (mental health and substance use disorders simultaneously). The only such treatment center accessible to patients on Medicaid has only 16 beds and is only open to individuals involved in the criminal justice system. My daughter, exposed to alcohol in utero by her birth mother, was placed in that program through the King County Mental Health Court.
An adequate response to this problem must be culturally appropriate, use evidence-based practices and be available on demand. Dr. Gabor Maté, the internationally known addiction medicine specialist and author, has written that addiction is a normal response to trauma. If we truly have compassion for those who live on the streets, we must as a community move beyond Band-Aid interventions. To effectively address the ongoing mental health, substance abuse and homelessness crises, a comprehensive approach is required.
Karen C. Schneider, Seattle