Why Mental Health for World AIDS Day?

Posted on 11/29/2012 at 2:39 pm

Carrie from Homeland

Bailey House observes the 25th annual World AIDS Day by opening our first major expansion in over a decade – the new Behavioral Health Clinic in East Harlem, a neighborhood with the City’s highest rate of psychiatric hospitalizations and the second highest rate of HIV incidence. It will be housed at our Rand Harlan Center for Housing, Wellness and Community, and will provide a variety of mental health and other services by licensed therapists sensitive to the challenges of low-income people living with HIV/AIDS traumatized by poverty, violence, incarceration and chronic illnesses. The clinic will be LGBT inclusive, harm-reduction based, trauma-informed and open to all.

Why mental health services now? For 30 years we have watched stable housing transform lives. Whether in 1984 when AIDS was considered terminal and some residents lived only weeks or three weeks ago when some residents marked their 20 anniversary in our supportive housing. The miracle of a permanent home is clear.

Since we opened in 1983, and our clients started to lived longer, we also began to see what gets in the way. Depression, anxiety disorders, untreated bipolar or other chronic mental illness destabilize and are major barriers to accessing and staying in healthcare. Often these treatable illnesses, if left un-managed. are also a major barrier to housing retention, stability and the future.  They ruin lives.

As a fans of Carrie, the bipolar CIA agent on TV’s Homeland, know, treatment makes a powerful difference. Our Homeland heroine, when she’s stable, saves the country from clandestine terrorists. When she goes off medication, she’s her own worst enemy.  The good news is that like the fictional Carrie, millions of people live functional, successful lives with the help of good mental health care. Our current and future clients deserve no less.

We dedicate this opening to Rodger McFarlane, a legendary HIV/AIDS activist and one of the first board members of Bailey House. Four years ago, Rodger, after a brilliant career including positions in Navy Special Ops, GMHC, Broadway Cares and the Gill Foundation, took his own life.  The once brilliant man who we loved so much couldn’t see a future beyond his depression, physical or psychic pain. By opening this clinic today, we hope we can help others move past similar challenges to the point where life, stable housing, wellness and community are their future.

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