Report to Begin Decriminalizing Substance Use Disorders and Serious Mental Illness
Mayor Kamal Johnson releases report to begin decriminalizing substance use disorders and serious mental illness as part of his police reform pledge.
Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson will release the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) mapping report of Columbia County at the Hudson Common Council Meeting on May 18. The Council meeting begins at 7:00 pm. The SIM report was created by the Transitions to Treatment Task Force composed of city, county, and nonprofit leaders convened by the Mayor in July 2020. The report identifies service and infrastructure gaps in the treatment and care of people living with substance use disorders (SUDs) and/or untreated serious mental illness.
Importantly, the report also includes recommendations to prevent people from cycling in and out of incarceration, homelessness, and hospitalization, a problem that is steadily increasing in Columbia County.
“As of May 6, 2021, Columbia County recorded 37 suspected overdoses, 5 of which were fatalities. During the same period in 2020, the County had 23 suspected overdoses, 2 of which were fatal. Overdoses are on the rise and involve people who live across the county, not just in Hudson, but many come to Hudson for services, help or to sit in our parks. Sadly, an estimated 40% of those who live with a Substance Use Disorder also live with mental illness,” said Mayor Johnson.
“We needed to get to the root of the problem and understand our service and infrastructure gaps in order to fix the problem. This report is a first step to solving the problem and will require a partnership between the public and private sectors and the city and county governments,” he continued.
The Task Force’s work was facilitated by the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice which donated its services to the City’s efforts. “The Greenburger Center was proud to work with Mayor Johnson on this report and we look forward to working with the City, County, and State to implement the report’s recommendations, particularly the proposed Wellness Hub. We are convinced that Columbia County can become a model for other upstate rural/suburban communities, all of whom are facing the same realities when it comes to substance use disorders or people living with serious, untreated mental illness,” said Francis Greenburger, founder of the Greenburger Center.
At the heart of the report’s recommendations is the creation of a Wellness Hub at a parcel soon to be donated to the Greenburger Center by A. Colarusso and Sons, located in Greenport, New York. The Wellness Hub will allow for the re-location of the approved PEOPLE, USA 20-bed DeTox Center onto the property and the development, over time, of needed services such as supportive housing.
Another important recommendation is the elimination of area motels as emergency housing to be replaced by supportive housing, including a 30-40 bed homeless shelter. “Everyone knows it’s a bad idea to place anyone, let alone someone who may have a mental illness with psychotic or delusional features, in a remote motel room without access to services or other people. It has harmed the very people we are trying to help, cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and not made our communities safer. This is not a county or city problem, we all own this problem and need to face the fact that using motels as homeless housing makes no sense,” said Johnson.
Finally, the report recommends the creation of a county mental health court and the eventual reuse of portions of the Columbia County Jail property or jail for the provision of more services for this population including probation or homeless services.
The next step to implementing these recommendations is for the City of Hudson and the Columbia County Board of Supervisors to form a Joint Task Force to develop an implementation plan for recommendations deemed feasible.
ABOUT THE REPORT
The Columbia County Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) mapping report was prepared by the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice at the request of City of Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson. The report identifies infrastructure and service gaps in Columbia County, New York related to the treatment and care of people living with substance use disorders (SUDs) and/or untreated serious mental illness (“target population”). The report includes recommendations to prevent the target population from cycling in and out of incarceration, homelessness, and hospitalization.
To implement these recommendations, the report calls on the City of Hudson and the Columbia County Board of Supervisors to form a Joint Task Force to develop an implementation plan for recommendations deemed feasible.
Major service and infrastructure gaps identified include:
- Short-term crisis stabilization beds (up to 24 hours) and crisis step-down services (e.g., 3-week stabilization residential step-down housing and access to other services, including acute day treatment programs)
- Supportive and homeless housing, including permanent supportive housing for those living with mental illness or SUDs, temporary supportive housing including a homeless shelter for the homeless population, and post-crisis stabilization housing (up to 3 weeks
- Acute day treatment and additional community clinic services
- Re-entry services for people released from incarceration and those who are on probation or otherwise diverted from the criminal justice system pre-trial
- Staff shortages and a lack of staff diversity
- Lack of criminal court diversion options
- Mental health counseling services for students
- After-graduation transitional services for students graduating from high school with more serious forms of mental illness
Major recommendations include:
- Development of short-term and step-down crisis services either associated with Columbia Memorial Hospital or the proposed Wellness Hub
- Creation of a Wellness Hub on a donated land in Greenport, New York, to enable co-located services for the target population, including relocation of the proposed PEOPLE, USA 20 bed DeTox Center
- Development of a 30-40 bed homeless shelter and elimination of motels for emergency housing, unless supportive services are located on-site
- Restoration of counseling services to pre-pandemic levels in schools, the jail, and County Mental Health Clinic
- Creation of a county mental health court to hear felony cases and a HUB court to allow for transfer of misdemeanor cases involving the target population from town and village courts to county court
- More training for town and village judges and lawyers in DA and Public Defender offices
- Repurposing a portion of the jail property or jail for supportive services for the target population