Phil Hope urged to act on homelessness and mental health

Crisis and St Mungo’s have called on care services minister Phil Hope to remove barriers to mental health services for homeless people given the high levels of mental illness in the client group.

The call came at a Labour Party conference fringe event attended by Hope this week.

A survey of St Mungo’s clients last year found 70% had a diagnosed or suspected mental health condition or depression but almost half – and two-thirds of those with depression – were not receiving any treatment.

Access to talking therapies a concern 

Specific concerns raised at this meeting included barriers to people with substance misuse problems accessing talking therapies, under the government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme.

Over 40% of St Mungo’s clients surveyed last year had both a mental health and a drug or alcohol problem, but just 39% of this group were receiving treatment from both mental health and substance misuse services

Peter Cockersell, director of programmes at St Mungo’s, said: “People can go to psychological therapy services but they have to be clean, they can go to personality disorder services but they have to be diagnosed. I think mental health services exclude people. I would like to advocate for universal mental health care.”

New Horizons

He said New Horizons – the new mental health strategy the government is currently consulting on – “should be a step more radical and really promise universal mental health”, with expanding the IAPT programme a first priority.

Director of policy for Crisis Duncan Shrubsole said specialist teams were required who would look specifically at this client group and warned of the social effects of the recession with redundancy and repossession on the rise.

St Mungo’s has been examining the links between homelessness and mental health through its Happiness Matters research project, and published a report on the issue in July.

Dual diagnosis problems

This found that where patients with dual diagnosis were accepted as being the responsibility of mental health services, they were often told to sort out their substance misuse before being able to access treatment.

Former rough sleeper and ex-drug addict Martyn Warr, who has been working as a peer researcher for the “Happiness Matters” project, said he would not have responded well to treatment if he had been forced to clean up first.

Hope accepted there was an ongoing debate on treating people with multiple problems, but the current strategy was to “detox” first and then work with people’s underlying mental health problems.

He said that the roll-out of psychological therapies was important, and that New Horizons would involve looking at providing services in a more holistic fashion.

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Homelessness: St Mungo’s demands action on mental health

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