John Brodey
GOOD NEWS
Good news is hard to find these days, especially in the face of a 24-hour news cycle and a seemingly infinite supply of bad news. But, when it’s a game changing event for Santa Rosa, it should bear repetition and a beating of the drums. Literally every public and private conversation about the problems that confront our community begins and ends with homelessness. Given how long these conversations have been going, it is obvious to all that it is a complex problem which requires a multi-faceted solution. We know that 40% of those housed in Santa Rosa’s main jail and detention facilities have mental health issues. A similar percentage of Sonoma’s homeless population have a disabling condition whether if be developmental issues or chronic physical/mental impairment. Well intended efforts to manage the crisis have fallen short of providing meaningful change.
And so it was with great interest that we spent a VOM Rotary club breakfast in early January listening to a presentation by Capt. John Cregan of the SRPD titled; Reimagining Our Response to Mental Health Crises. He unveiled a truly inspired new approach that is modeled on a program instituted in Eugene, OR., called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets). In essence, our version consists of a mobile crisis intervention team which includes a licensed mental health clinician, a paramedic, a homeless outreach specialist and wrap around services. It uses informed de-escalation and harm reduction techniques to deal with emergency situations in a way that eliminates the need for police and fire involvement.
Travelling in a service van marked with the program’s logo (inRESPONSE…Mental Health Support Team), the team responds to calls from the SRPD’s regular 911 dispatch center team which is trained to evaluate each call and determine the appropriate level of response. Has a crime been committed, are there weapons present, are there safety issues or does it involve a medical emergency? The inResponse Team’s capabilities extend to whether the person is question needs immediate care or treatment of mental illness, are alcohol/drugs a factor. They also do welfare checks, provide medical care for suicidal or disoriented/delusional behavior, requests for medical evaluation and transportation to indicated facilities as well as assisting those mentally unstable. The program’s impacts as a model for those in crisis extends to diverting calls to police and fire departments as well as lessening the strains on our local emergency rooms. Its success will also be measured by a decrease in jail bookings for those in crisis and improve in the number of emergency shelter placements for those in need of support for mental and substance abuse issues.
It’s a bold plan but with through a partnership with SRFD, So. Co. Behavioral Health, Catholic Charities, Buckelew Programs and Humanidad Therapy and Education services, the chances of real success seem possible. Capt. Cregan, who has shepherded the evolution of the inRESPONSE program from the beginning, has done an amazing job and we are now thrilled to congratulate him on being named the interim Chief of the SRPD when Chief Navarro retires in June. Kudos to him!

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