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New NHS service to provide mental health support for the homeless

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42% of thehomeless experience mental health issues 42% of people sleeping rough experience mental health issues

The NHS is rolling out a new service aimed at ensuring that those who are sleeping rough have access to mental health support and care.

Mental health issues among those living on the streets are becoming more widely recognised as an area for concern. According to an assessment carried out by homeless charity St Mungo’s on homelessness and mental health, nearly half (42%) of people sleeping rough are experiencing mental health problems.

Claire Murdoch, the NHS national director for mental health, commented on the situation: ‘Many rough sleepers have been through incredibly traumatic experiences which can cause mental ill health or exacerbate problems- often impacting on the type of support they need and this is about stopping people slipping through the net’.

The new service aims to work alongside existing mental healthcare services for the homeless. The first wave of funding, set at almost £12 million, is to be used over the next five years for opening services across a range of locations, including Lambeth, Luton, Birmingham, Brighton and Hull.

‘In 2018, 726 people died while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation, with many affected by a range of physical, mental health and substance use problems. This is a public health crisis and the NHS has a key role to play in tackling these issues and supporting people’s recovery from homelessness,’ said Dominic Williamson, St Mungo’s Executive Director of Policy.

‘As a result we are pleased to see investment in these specialist services for people who are homeless. We particularly welcome the promises to join-up provision between mental health, substance use and housing – to ensure no one is denied the treatment and support they need. We hope these services will save lives and ensure more people recover from homelessness and rebuild their lives.’

‘In many ways this is a return to the Rough Sleepers Initiative which ran alongside the Homeless Mentally Ill Initiative in the 1990s – but obviously a very welcome return,’ said Samantha Dorney-Smith, Nurse Project Lead supporting the QNI Homeless Health Programme.

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