Young: Grants help expand care for vets, homeless in Arizona


A man walks into a west Phoenix health center to see a physician about his blood pressure and a therapist about his nightmares.

His life has been decimated by the recent pandemic — his job and home are gone.

He’s a veteran, but the health system is too complex for him to navigate.

After his health appointments, the man meets with a housing expert who puts him on a list for a home. He sits down with an employment rehabilitation specialist with access to agencies who can help put him back in the workforce.

And he visits with a peer-support mentor who helps him feel less alone. This is an example of the expanded, wraparound services Terros Health recently launched at its 27th Avenue Health Center.

Terros Health put a $4 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to work adopting the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model of care. The 27th Avenue clinic is one of just three CCBHCs in Arizona.

The funding enables Terros Health to hire specialists to offer collaborative services that typically are missing from mental health and substance abuse care.

The integration of physical and mental health is nothing new at Terros Health. But now we have seen how inextricably linked these services are to the social determinants of health — conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.

Economic stability, access to quality education and quality health care, safe neighborhoods and positive relationships all matter to our overall well-being. Not having to worry about where to sleep or how to buy food reduces our anxiety.

Terros Health has embraced these social determinants of health so our staff can wrap their arms around our community.

The grant’s timing could not be better, given the increase in people forced to choose between paying rent or taking medications. An increase in Americans’ deteriorating mental health, job losses and homelessness, due to the pandemic, is more evidence we need to do things differently.

For example, 4 in 10 American adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, according to the 2020 National Health Interview Survey (It was 1 in 10 in 2019.)

Research shows that job loss is associated with increased depression, anxiety, distress and low self-esteem and may lead to higher rates of substance use disorder and suicide. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use to cope with stress related to the pandemic.

Already a problem before 2020, homelessness has increased significantly in the U.S., with the Office of Housing and Urban Development reporting more than 580,000 people who experienced homelessness on a single night in 2020, a  2.2% increase from 2019.

The situation for veterans experiencing homelessness is even worse. On a single night in 2020, more than 37,000 veterans were on the streets, 8% of the total homeless adults.

As we implement this new model of care, Terros Health is seeing the community hug us right back.

Caring partners are stepping up to donate bicycles and cellphone chargers to people lacking transportation and connectivity, and to offer job interviews to those needing a second chance.

If you’re interested in joining us, email me at Ray.Young@terroshealth.org.

And we have noticed a most-welcome ripple effect. A patient comes in for group therapy, then has her name added to the housing list. She, in turn, tells someone else, who then signs up, too.

That’s the beauty of an embrace.

Editor’s note: Ray Young is a licensed professional counselor and director of Terros Health’s 27th Avenue Health Center.