The 8th Annual Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. Memorial Mental Health Conference on Monday, June 22, 2009 drew nearly 200 mental health consumers, advocates, and government officials to discuss access and barriers to jobs and housing for people with mental illness. The all day conference was sponsored by the District of Columbia State Mental Health Planning Council, a citizen advisory group appointed by Mayor Adrian Fenty to oversee the public mental health system.
In the morning session on supportive employment, panelists talked about strategies and policies to improve access to supportive employment. More than 500 consumers who work an average of 25 hours per week participate in the supportive employment program within DMH. A number of government agencies and more than 30 private sector companies including Home Depot, FedEx, local hospitals and universities, Starbucks and Colonia Parking employ consumers.
To increase available housing opportunities, DMH joined with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to create 300 units of affordable housing over the next three years for the exclusive use of individuals with mental illness. The first units for women who are long term homeless will be available in July. Through a transfer of $14 million, DMH will help finance the creation or renovation of 150 new units this year with the first consumers scheduled to move into new homes in July.
The agreement with DHCD will increase the number of residents receiving housing support by 50 percent. Currently, 700 people with mental illness receive a housing subsidy from DMH.