January 26, 2011

The most important program that you never knew we had.

Bread for the City is contracted by the DC Department of Mental Health to provide payee services to 800 of the Department’s consumers -- people who struggle with chronic mental illness, and who need assistance with their financial matters.

Through the Rep Payee program, we receive our clients’ benefit deposits (i.e. their Social Security checks); then we use that money to pay rent and utilities, food and medical costs, and personal expenses. Each client’s spending is guided by an individualized budget plan created in collaboration with the clients’ mental health treatment team and our staff. Each week about 200 clients pick up expense checks at one of Bread’s centers, with many more checks mailed out across the city. Each month approximately $670,000 flows through the Representative Payee Program - more than $8 million a year! (That may sound like a lot, but it works out to be just about $10,000 for each client in a year.)

Aside from managing bank accounts, we also work to ensure that our clients can continue to receive these benefits. The population we serve experiences frequent changes in personal circumstances -- including moves and hospitalizations that may affect benefit eligibility. Each such event must be properly documented and reported to comply with complicated rules. Our biweekly trips to the Social Security Administration offices allow us to keep client records up-to-date, thus avoiding unnecessary benefit suspensions or over-payments. This, in turn, ensures a stable environment for our clients. Should they need other kinds of assistance, we can also connect them with Bread for the City services like food, legal and medical care.

Our case managers and accountants ensure that rent is paid on time and phone and electricity services stay up and running. And by working with us to devise a workable budget, our clients can ultimately decrease their reliance on service agencies generally – and build towards greater degrees of independence. They may even be able to save some money for a special shopping trip for winter clothes, or for birthday presents for family members. Any way you stretch it, a $674 Supplemental Security Income payment is not easy to live off of in a pricey city like Washington, DC, but with the help of the Rep Payee Program, many of our clients can find stability and happiness.


Hannah Campbell Gustafson said...

So glad to read a post about Rep Payee! The Rep Payee department at Bread is amazing. Keep up the good work!

The DC Area RPCVs! said...

Hannah, I totally agree!