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Grant will Establish NYC Facility for Dually Diagnosed

Mental Health Weekly

The New York State Office of Mental Health has awarded a $4.7 million grant to Odyssey House, a 33-year-old therapeutic community, to construct a new 46-bed supervised community residence in New York City for adults with co-occurring mental and addictive disorders. The grant will allow Odyssey House to expand its current efforts to treat this population.

The new facility will be built on city-owned vacant lots in Harlem. Residents will live in fully equipped two-bedroom apartments and will receive round-the-clock supervision and a comprehensive array of treatment services based on the Odyssey House model.

Odyssey House currently runs a 60-bed facility that treats the same population to be served under the new program, which includes homeless people with a dual diagnosis.

“We believe we have a model treatment program that is quite replicable. We need many more of them in New York and throughout the country,” Peter Provet, Ph.D., president of Odyssey House, told MHW.

Provet said the Odyssey House Harbor program helps participants understand and respect their mental illness and the importance of consistently taking the psychotropic medications they are prescribed. “We help them understand how substance abuse makes their mental illness worse and makes their lives much more intolerable, and make them understand that mental illness and substance abuse lead them to be homeless,” said Provet.

Odyssey House uses a model it calls enhanced therapeutic community (ETC), which is an adaptation of the common therapeutic community modality in addiction treatment. “It’s a self-help model where participants actively engage and take ownership of their treatment — we also bring in a range of professional staff who provide psychiatric treatment and follow-up,” said Provet.

Eligible participants are at least 18 years old, have a psychiatric disability, and have a history of substance abuse and homelessness. The typical length of stay is 18 to 24 months, after which participants step down to less supervision in long-term independent living facilities.

Provet said that the retention rate for Odyssey House Harbor has been around 95 percent, with a relapse rate of only about 2 to 3 percent during the course of the program. He cited the long lengths of stay as one of the keys to the program’s success.

Provet also touts the cost-effectiveness of the program. He said it costs about $33,000 per bed per year to operate Odyssey House Harbor, while the typical state prison bed costs $35,000 per year.

The state has funded Odyssey House Harbor for about seven years, said Provet. He said the state’s awarding of the new grant confirms the program’s success. “We have a track record with the state Office of Mental Health.”

Provet added that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has taken a great interest in Odyssey House Harbor and that there have been discussions about a research protocol to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness.

In addition to its Odyssey House Harbor program, Odyssey House operates residential family programs for mothers and children, programs for disturbed youth, and elder care services.

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