SAMHSA Grantee in Tulsa Improves Access to Treatment

Learn how the T-HARP program made behavioral health treatment accessible for people in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Mental Health Association Oklahoma received a SAMHSA Services in Supportive Housing (SSH) grant in 2009 to develop their Tulsa Housing and Recovery Program (T-HARP). People experiencing chronic homelessness often fail to get treatment because they lack access to treatment facilities and resources to pay for the help they need. Additionally, mental illness and/or trauma symptoms that render them unable to navigate and participate in traditional outpatient treatment can be major barriers to receiving treatment. Through the T-HARP program, Mental Health Association Oklahoma eliminated the “access” barriers by bringing mental health and trauma-informed substance use treatment into the familiar surroundings of the supportive housing residence.

T-HARP Residents

The staff approaches client engagement with the conviction that there is “no wrong door” through which to enter treatment. They seek to create an environment where an array of onsite services gives clients a great deal of autonomy and choice in deciding how to approach their treatment. Residents in supportive housing can come into T-HARP in a number of ways. Some enter the program by joining a Seeking Safety group, while others may become engaged through a T-HARP Case Manager’s assistance with accessing Social Security benefits.

Allowing clients to participate in the services at their own pace and in their own way has worked well for the program and its participants. T-HARP operates a “program of attraction” in which residents observe their neighbors receiving onsite services. The goal is to make them curious about and ultimately interested in being a part of the program. Mental Health Association Oklahoma also owns and manages many of the supportive housing units. This enables staff to work closely with the leasing department to foster a climate that supports the expectation of individual responsibility, combined with the reality of a harm reduction model.

Increasing residential stability among the chronically homeless has been a key focus of the program. The original grant proposal suggested a targeted goal of 80% housing retention after 12 months. However, the program has exceeded that goal. At last count, 94% of T-HARP participants who were in the program for 12 months were housed continuously for 12 months.

The Housing First approach utilized by T-HARP provides Seeking Safety and Double Trouble in Recovery to residents in supportive housing. Double Trouble groups are facilitated by Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) staff, while Seeking Safety groups and individual therapy sessions are run by clinicians and case managers from partner agencies. T-HARP staff members have also been trained to use motivational interviewing, which they incorporate into their daily interactions with consumers. Housing retention and improved mental health among participants support the notion that providing onsite evidence-based treatment is especially beneficial to the chronically homeless population.

Consumers are the backbone of this project. T-HARP provides onsite trauma-focused mental health and substance use treatment for residents in supportive housing. Four members of the CRSS staff provide recovery support services. The grant-funded nurse fills a huge gap in services by helping clients with chronic disease management, medication management, and other health and wellness related services. Through partnerships with other agencies, T-HARP also provides linkage with home health and dental services, education and employment training, and intensive case management.

T-HARP Staff

T-HARP staff are a diverse group of well trained and highly motivated professionals whose mission is to provide services to residents in supportive housing and foster skill development that allows each individual to reach his or her maximum level of self-sufficiency. At present, three males and seven females comprise the T-HARP grant-funded staff; three of the staff members identify as African American. T-HARP staff members bring varied backgrounds in terms of training and experience, including licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, certified case managers, a licensed practical nurse, and certified peer recovery support staff.

The four CRSS positions funded by the grant provide transportation, run groups, provide access to mainstream benefits, and serve as models for living safely and productively—all of this in spite of clients' issues with mental and/or substance use disorders, trauma or other life-changing conditions. CRSS staff work closely with other clinical and program staff to foster an integrated treatment approach.

T-HARP Project Partners

Mental Health Association Oklahoma partners with two of the largest community mental health centers in the city of Tulsa (Family & Children’s Services and Counseling and Recovery Services of Oklahoma) to provide therapists and case managers for the T-HARP project. This partnership brings an array of clinical, medical, and pharmacological services to residents in supportive housing. T-HARP also partners with HOPE Testing for sexual health and testing services; Goodwill of Oklahoma for job training and placement; Morton Health Services for medical, dental, and vision care; and the Oklahoma University School of Nursing for semi-annual health screening and education fairs. The Veterans’ Administration is also an active partner in the T-HARP project, an alliance that is proving to be increasingly relevant as military men and women return from recent conflict.

Learn more about Housing First at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

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Connie Campos
Last Updated: 05/17/2019