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The Legacy of Rosalynn Carter

Please join us as we celebrate the life of Rosalynn Carter.

The world is both mourning and celebrating the remarkable life of Rosalynn Carter for her multiple achievements and a lifetime of public service, as well as her kindness and generosity. She not only redefined the role of the First Lady in many ways but also leveraged it strategically, specifically around the issue of mental illness and health. This resonates closely with the work that Care For the Homeless (CFH) does every day, providing high-quality health care to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, and addressing the critical need for mental health treatment and services. 

We could list the many accomplishments that others have made since her passing. But of all her vital work, there are three concepts or initiatives on mental health that resonate and align with the work CFH does daily. 

We acknowledge Mrs. Carterโ€™s pivotal role in raising awareness that the combination of primary care and mental health care is central to an individualโ€™s overall well-being. CFH practices this concept, ensuring that both primary and mental health assessments are requisite in the treatment plan for every individual our health care team sees at our health centers. We treat the whole personโ€™s physical and mental health, as well as the factors in their lives that contributed to their current housing status, including employment, family connections (or lack of), and the myriad of social determinants that brought them into our care. 

The second is her efforts to create parity for mental health treatment in our health care system, ensuring those services would be covered by insurance. The Mental Health Systems Act (1980) was passed but was later stripped of funding by the Regan administration. Fortunately, three decades later, mental health treatment became a part of the Affordable Care Act and has been further strengthened under the Biden administration. However, there is more work to be done to ensure coverage of a broader array of services individuals living with mental illness need to stabilize their lives. 

 And the third is her essential fight to dispel the stigma of mental illness. At CFH, we persistently fight the combined negative stigmas of mental illness and homelessness that are pervasive and too often, inflamed for the wrong reasons in the media. We all know that many of our NYC neighbors experiencing homelessness do live with a mental illness. That illness may have contributed to their homelessness, or their illness may have worsened because of the trauma of homelessness. How debilitating an illness becomes is largely dependent on whether a person has access to appropriate and high-quality treatment and support services. These services can make all the difference in whether a personโ€™s cycle of homelessness is broken, or not. With 25 service sites across all five boroughsโ€”and growing in the next three years to serve more in needโ€”CFH is significantly reducing the barriers to primary and mental health care for thousands of homeless New Yorkers. When the barriers no longer exist, treatment and ending their homelessness can alleviate the pain of those stigmas.

CFH and millions more owe a great deal to Mrs. Carterโ€™s lifetime of work to bring attention to the issue of mental illness, the need to acknowledge it exists, and that it deserves equal treatment. We will continue to match her dedication, passion, and compassion in our work year-round, to serve New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and mental illness and to end their episode of homelessness. 

If you would like to help the effort to ensure that any New Yorker experiencing homelessness has access to mental and behavioral health treatment that will put them on the path to good health and permanent housing, please donate today!