This Q&A with Kathy Dobbins, Wellspring’s CEO, first appeared in Business First of Louisville’s Ask the Experts in May 2022.
We often talk about homelessness as a public health crisis, but is it also a behavioral health crisis?
Absolutely. Approximately a third of the houseless population has a serious mental illness (SMI) which locally translates to 3,546 persons. This is a human tragedy. Between 2018 and 2021 the number of homeless in Jefferson County increased 41% from 7,572 to 10,640. Wellspring provides housing and supportive services to adults with mental illness and nowhere is the need greater than within our homeless population.
Because untreated symptoms may be disruptive in congregate shelters, there is likely a disproportionate number of people with mental illness living on our streets and under our viaducts. Sadly, they often have a variety of other untreated health conditions. Serious mental illnesses are biological disorders affecting the brain – not a moral failing.
Central State once housed more than 2,000 patients while their 2021 average daily census was but 59. Hospitals are not meant to be homes. Most with serious mental illness live on $841/month SSI while the fair market rent in Louisville is $800.
Not only are most unable to afford market-rate housing, they often need supportive services to succeed. The availability of affordable, supportive housing has decreased as homelessness has increased resulting in incredible human suffering. Wellspring has provided supportive housing for 40 years but the need outpaces the community’s investment. Wellspring is well-positioned to provide the housing and supports needed to make a real impact on both individual and community quality of life. Wellspring stands ready to work collaboratively with businesses, the City, the KY Department for Behavioral Health, and others to engage those most in need and to help move them into housing and toward lives of recovery.