Lookout Housing and Health Society and Adler University have launched new mental health services to help people experiencing homelessness or living in extreme poverty achieve increased stability in their lives.
Adler University graduate students, under the supervision of registered psychologists from the University, will provide mental health services such as individual and group therapy, psychological assessments, mental health screenings, and educational programming.
The services will be offered to guests at three Lookout locations: Russell Housing Centre in New Westminster, Powell Street Getaway in Downtown Eastside, and the Mood Disorders Association outpatient clinic in Downtown Vancouver. The services align with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions’ A Pathway to Hope, a roadmap for improving mental health and addictions care for everyone in B.C.
“Because of the innovative partnership between Lookout and Adler University, graduate students will provide much-needed mental health services to the most vulnerable people in our community, where and when they need it,” said Hon. Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, who spoke at the October 25 event celebrating the launch of the partnership. “By combining their expertise, one as a community organization and the other an academic institution, they’ve created a new opportunity to help people on their pathway to healing and hope.”
All of the mental health services are trauma-informed to help people heal from the adverse experiences in their lives. Homelessness is often caused by a number of factors, including poverty, family breakdown, trauma, addiction, and illness. Research shows poverty is the top cause of homelessness, especially in Vancouver where housing costs are the highest in Canada.
People experiencing homelessness or living in extreme poverty often live with mental health challenges that remain unaddressed. For example, of the 205 people who stayed at Lookout’s Russell Housing Centre last year, 62% lived with self-reported substance use and 32% with self-reported mental health issues, and many people experience both challenges simultaneously.
“Many of our guests experience mental health challenges and need customized services to meet their various needs,” said Shayne Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Lookout Housing and Health Society.
“Traditional mental health services, such as weekly therapy appointments, are difficult for guests to access when struggling with housing instability, poverty and stigma. This is why we are excited to work with Adler University to help design mental health services to meet guests’ specific needs.”
Adler University and Lookout created a unique community-focused model of high-quality mental health services that aim to help guests gain housing stability, to provide access to longer term therapy services, and to help substance users to better manage their addictions.
“Adler University is committed to promoting community wellness and health, and we’re proud to partner with Lookout to expand their mental health offerings,” said Bradley O’Hara, Executive Dean of Adler University’s Vancouver Campus. “In contrast to many clinical training programs, where mental health services are offered on a university campus, we offer services directly in the communities where underserved populations live. By working within communities, our students gain valuable insight into the surrounding social conditions that affect mental health so they can better serve guests.”
The services provided by Adler are adapted to meet the needs of guests at each location. For example, services will focus on crisis intervention at Lookout’s Powell Street Getaway in Downtown Eastside, a community resource centre for individuals living with mental health and substance use challenges. At the Russell Housing Centre, guests with stable housing are offered longer term therapy services.
Clinical services are currently provided three full days a week, with additional days planned to begin in January, by five Adler University students from the Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology and Master of Counselling Psychology programs. In addition to therapy, assessment, and screenings for guests, Adler University students will also provide staff development and trauma-resiliency training to Lookout employees.
The Lookout partnership is a component of Adler Community Health Services, and is the University’s first partnership of this kind in Vancouver. Adler Community Health Services offers similar community-focused mental health services tailored to the needs of disadvantaged populations in Chicago, where Adler University also has a campus.
In Vancouver, Adler University partners with more than 250 community organizations to offer students hands-on learning experiences related to their areas of study.