State Treasurer Clint Zweifel toured the Arnold Comtrea location, 21 Municipal Drive, on Thursday afternoon to learn how to improve services for the homeless and people with disabilities.
Comtrea is a private, non-profit organization providing treatment for drug abuse, mental illness and support for domestic abuse victims.
Zweifel said the goal is for non-profits and businesses to work smarter and more effectively to solve the problems of 24,000 homeless people in Missouri.
About 5,000 veterans and 16,000 children are homeless in Missouri, Zweifel said.
“Without organizations like Comtrea, schools, counties and cities would have to spend money to learn how to tackle the problems of mental illness, drug abuse and violence,” Zweifel said.
Partnering health care specialists and low-income housing managers, for example, would keep homeless off the streets, out of jails, and from needing emergency rooms care, said Jon Galloway, a spokesman for the treasurer.
Working Smarter and More Effectively
“Tax payers would save about $16,000 per (homeless) person than placing the homeless in a jail, shelter or emergency room,” Galloway said.
Homeless people with disabilities only receive half of the needed solution, Galloway said. Some receive therapy but lack a stable place to live. Others have a good home but never receive treatment.
“So we’re trying to connect the dots (the various institutions) and allow the free market to solve the needs for each region,” Galloway said.
One city may have a need for the Veterans’ Administration involvement; another may need more child advocacy services, Galloway said.
Comtrea has about 13 offices to cover 700 square miles in Jefferson County, said President and CEO Stephen F. Huss. Comtrea’s Arnold, High Ridges and Desoto offices provide treatment for children.
“Children play out their problems,” Huss said.
Children will likely reveal a traumatic event, as they interact with toys, participate in games, or join in activities.
Specialists watch the children in Comtrea play areas, while video cameras and microphones record children’s activities and stories, Huss said.
Numerous courts accept the recordings as evidence and children are spared the from having to repeatedly describe a traumatic event, Huss said.
“Children re-live an event every time they talk about it,” Huss said.
A child molester, outside Missouri, received a 400+ year prison sentence after the court heard video testimony provided by Comtrea, Huss said.
“We’re proud of that,” Huss said, “Our job is to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.”