National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Model Program: Critical Time Intervention with Homeless Families

Family Critical Time Intervention model (FCTI). (Jointly funded by NIMH and the Center for Mental Health Services/Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Homeless Families Program.)


To apply effective, time-limited, and intensive intervention strategies to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, trauma recovery, housing, support, and family preservation services to homeless mothers with mental illnesses and substance use disorders who are caring for their dependent children.


The Critical Time Intervention model (CTI) was developed in New York City as a program to increase housing stability for persons with severe mental illnesses and long-term histories of homelessness. Its principle components are rapid placement in transitional housing, fidelity to a Critical Time Intervention CTI model for families (i.e., provision of an intensive, 9-month case management intervention, with mental health and substance use treatments), a focused team approach to service delivery, with the aim of reducing homelessness, and brokering and monitoring the appropriate support arrangements to ensure continuity of care.


Data indicate that mothers in this group tend to be poorly educated, have meager work histories, and face multiple medical, mental health, and substance use problems. Their children's lives have lacked stability in terms of housing, education, and periods of separation from their mothers. African-American and Latina women were over-represented in study sites in proportions greater than the national average for homeless populations. (An NIMH-funded study of this project is ongoing; additional outcomes will be available at its conclusion.)

Biggest challenge

The CTI model for families challenges the assumption that homeless mothers with children who are have mental health or substance use disorders require confinement and extended stays in congregate shelter living before they can independently manage their own households. This can be addressed by acquiring buy-in from collaborators and involved agencies, acquiring needed housing resources, evaluating the project with respect to model fidelity, and attaining ongoing involvement of practice innovators to establish thoughtful compromises within local contexts.

How other organizations can adopt

The program is transferable to any community that can align resources needed for housing and conduct relevant training for providers in a CTI model for families. (A manual to guide program replication will be available at the conclusion of the current study.)


Westchester County, NY

For additional information visit the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices

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