Mental health challenges, homelessness are the largest problems facing NY veterans: report

August 7, 2023
Crain’s NY Health Pulse
By Jacqueline Neber

Mental health challenges, substance use issues and homelessness disproportionately impact veteran New Yorkers, according to a new study from Services for the UnderServed.

The analysis, released July 27, shows that more than 1,100 veterans experienced homelessness on any given night throughout the state in 2020, and two-thirds could be found in the city or on Long Island.

Additionally, post-traumatic stress disorder is a growing concern for New York veterans: 15-20% of veterans nationally already report being affected, and that number is likely underreported due to stigma, said Gabrielle Fasano, S:US’ regional director. Vets also contend with depression and growing rates of suicide, according to the report–suicide rates among the population soared by 25% in 2020.

New York’s high cost of living and lack of affordable housing make living here especially challenging for vets, Fasano said, and when individuals are unhoused that can make it harder to access mental and physical health care, compounding issues.

Fasano said she hopes the report’s statistics can guide state policy going forward, such as greater incentivization for landlords to work with government-funded housing subsidy programs and creating safety net programs for veterans facing eviction.

“We do have robust housing supports often available, in terms of long-term vouchers for veterans. We focus intensely on cultivating new landlord partnerships,” she said. “But those private market landlords are sometimes hesitant to work with a government-funded program. So, incentivizing [them], doing so at a state or federal level, can be really key to continuing to drive down veteran homelessness.”

She stressed that it is also imperative for New York’s social services organizations to train their staff on engaging with veterans who reach out for mental health support so they can get connected to care.

Services for the UnderServed has a Manhattan location in Midtown. The organization provides behavioral health and housing services as well as services for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities.

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