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Mental Health Services for the Most Vulnerable

A&C's Homeless Resources Team at a NAMI Summit

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Integral to Adult & Child’s organizational mission is delivering “life-enhancing physical, social, and behavioral healthcare services” with hope, compassion, and creativity. The Homeless Outreach team at Adult & Child embodies that mission through the core belief that all persons deserve access to needed health and social services and that no one should fall between the cracks.

“The Outreach Team at Adult & Child Health is responsible for saving lives throughout the year. They are real-life heroes, especially during inclement weather, as their focus is to provide needed supplies and conduct wellness checks on individuals exposed to harsh weather conditions,” said Jennifer Disbro, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services.

Adult & Child began providing outreach services in 2011 with just one staff member providing outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness in Marion County. By the end of 2022, the program had grown to include six full-time positions under two different funding opportunities to meet the growing needs of the community.

The team continues to find new and innovative ways to serve Central Indiana’s unhoused neighbors, which has included forging a partnership with Wheeler Mission. The two agencies welcomed a site visit by Zoe Frantz and LeeAnn Jordan of the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers in fall of 2022 so that Zoe and LeeAnn could see firsthand how the organizations’ partnership has been impactful to persons experiencing homelessness. 

Staff from A&C, Wheeler Mission, and Indiana Council meet for a site visit
Staff from A&C, Wheeler Mission, and Indiana Council meet for a site visit.

“Wheeler Mission is grateful for the long-standing collaborative partnership with Adult & Child Health. Through the years, our relationship has deepened and evolved to address the complex needs of those we serve across a widening spectrum of services and support,” said Colleen Gore, MSW, Chief Program Officer for Women’s Programming at Wheeler Mission and Adult & Child Health Board Member.

“What began as a coordinated outreach approach has expanded to co-located mental health services and now involves discussions to provide supportive housing service. This flexible process is integral in promoting sustainable life change for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.” 


A typical day begins with a team meeting and the development of a daily plan for outreach. A large part of the day involves following up on referrals, which could come from a number of different sources. Outreach staff can become connected to individuals through city-wide outreach efforts, from staff who have stopped into local camps or locations identified by partnership efforts, through other shelters, and through their established walk-in office hours. Other Adult & Child staff make internal referrals to the outreach team as well. The team packs items for the day, including blankets, water, snacks, and Narcan. They head out into the community prepared to attend to any potential needs of those they serve, from food or medical requests to unplanned crisis scenarios.

During outreach walk-in hours at Adult & Child Health, the team triages the needs of individuals as they arrive, with the goal of creating a coordinated entry access to complete housing assessments. However, during these hours, the team also links individuals to primary care and behavioral health and assists them in accessing crucial identification documents that may include birth certificates, ID cards, social security cards, and more.


The Outreach Team partners closely with a variety of external organizations and programs within the Central Indiana community. Some of these partnerships include the IMPD Homeless Unit, Wheeler Mission Men’s and Women’s Shelter, Horizon House, Homeless Initiative Program (HIP), the Coalition for Homeless Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), Adult Intervention Center (AIC), and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office’s Quality of Life Program.

A new partnership for the team, the “Wellness in Transit” initiative with IndyGo, began in May of 2023. Through this initiative, staff set up a table at the Carson Transit Center on Tuesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. This functions like a mini clinic, where staff are able to conduct rapid triages, assessments, behavioral health referrals, and more.


“Adult & Child’s Outreach team members are incredible at engagement. They have a real ability to connect and build trust with individuals with significant untreated mental health issues,” said Brian Paul, Adult & Child Homeless & Housing Resource Team Leader.

The team is diverse in their past work experience, which helps in the many situations they encounter out on the streets. Individual team members have medical backgrounds, rural outreach experience, legal backgrounds, and mental health/substance abuse treatment experience.

The team is also made up of excellent community collaborators who often provide trainings to many of Adult & Child’s community partners. One recent training involved working with Wheeler Mission’s case managers on how to navigate the legal system.

The Outreach team exemplifies one of Adult & Child’s values of “meeting people where they are”—often very literally. The team regularly meets individuals within the community in locations that include shelters, camps, and other places not meant for human habitation.

Each Outreach team member is an advocate for persons experiencing homelessness as it relates to systems, services, and resources. They know most individuals they serve by name, take time to learn their story through a person-centered approach, and help each individual set goals. When someone is ready to be connected to services or resources, they are quick to respond. The team follows best practices and utilizes harm-reduction approaches.

“It is such a joy to go out and get to know these folks. They are amazing individuals. Their connections to one another; how they allow us to be a part of who they are and their community,” said Susan Hobson, Street Outreach Professional. “We build some really deep, amazing relationships with the folks we serve. It’s a community of care going both ways.”

More To Explore

Sarah Miller, PMHNP-BC

Sarah Miller works with the addictions team, general psychiatry for adolescents and adults, and the competency restoration team. She is board-certified as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Her specialties are working in addictions and with people who experience serious mental illness.

Miller graduated from Indiana University with a psychology degree and went back to school for nursing. She received her nursing degree from Indiana Wesleyan University and worked in a nursing home and also spent time working in a group home with adolescents. She received her master’s degree from Vanderbilt University.

She enjoys hanging out with her family and her two dogs, and going to sporting events.

Joanna Chambers, MD

Dr. Joanna Chambers is a psychiatrist who began seeing Adult & Child Health patients in November 2021. She graduated from Medical College of Georgia with her Doctorate of Medicine in 1996 and completed her residency in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. In addition to bringing a wealth of experience, she currently serves as an associate professor at Indiana University School of Medicine where she teaches Clinical Psychiatry. She is certified in Addiction Medicine and has a special interest in treating pregnant and postpartum women. She is President of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry Organization as well as a sitting member of many medical association boards. Recently, she has won the Residents’ Award for Teaching Excellence in 2020 from Indiana University and has received “Best Doctors Award” in 2010, 2011, and 2014. Dr. Chambers is incredibly active in the medical, academic, and research realms of medicine. She is currently accepting new patients on Wednesdays.