Columbia County Wellness Hub plan would attempt to lower levels of homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness
Roger Hannigan Gilson reports in the Times Union that Columbia County elected officials, police, social workers and mental health professionals are working on plans to build The Wellness Hub to alleviate homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness. The plan comes out of a 2021 report commissioned by Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson, “intended to reduce policing of people in a mental health or substance use disorder (SUD) related crisis.” The hub would include a “safe haven"-style shelter, therapy, peer counseling, and social services, intended to keep county residents in crisis out of the court system and the emergency room. Currently, homeless people in the county are often moved into seven privately owned motels, some in remote locations with no nearby food options or other services. Last December, the seven motels and a “civic motel” operated by a nonprofit housed 103 homeless people, including 25 children. Cheryl Roberts, the executive director of the Greenburger Center for Social & Criminal Justice, said, “I think that everyone at this point is well aware that this is not the answer, this is not the solution, and we need something else, we need a plan B.” Columbia County Department of Social Services Commissioner Bob Gibson believes The Wellness Hub is the answer, saying, “You’re in a facility where you have oversight, where you can get assistance right away — our workers are close to you, and we contract with nonprofits to staff the shelter — so we provide wrap-around services, and if (the shelter) is on a campus where it’s one part of a Wellness Hub, most of the human services and social services you’re going to are contained within the campus.” He said the new plan would also be cheaper than housing the homeless in motels. Hudson's mayor Johnson agreed, saying, “We’re spending so much money on policing, as well as on motel rooms and different efforts, and a lot of it is not working.” Read more about this story in the Times Union.