South Bend Area Mental Health Unit To Need Provider Support


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SOUTH BEND – As the Faith In Indiana group lobbies for a mobile response unit to provide South Bend area police forces with an alternative to imprisoning people with mental illness and addiction issues, activists and officials cite Eugene, Oregon, as a community that does things right. .

The city that is home to the University of Oregon implemented the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in 1989. Officials say it has been effective in turning away people with mental health needs , addiction and other services away from prison, Lt. Ron Tinseth, program director, said by phone last week.

An analysis of the 2019 CAHOOTS program shows that 5 to 8% of service calls that would have been handled by the Eugène police department were redirected to the mobile response team.

Similarly, an analysis of the “Mobile Crisis Assistance Team” of the city of Indianapolis which was carried out in 2017 when it was a pilot program operating in a neighborhood which had a high number of calls to the 911 related to mental health crises, has shown the program to be effective in keeping those facing mental health or substance abuse crises out of jail.

The study, conducted by the Center for Criminal Justice Research at Indiana University Public Policy Institute, found that MCAT staff took less than 2% of the people they interacted with to prison.

Tinseth said CAHOOTS was Eugene’s response to nonprofits that often came to annual budget hearings to ask for more money to address issues such as homelessness, addiction and mental health.

“What the city has decided to do is instead of giving something small to many groups to centralize the service and give more to the White Bird Clinic to form a CAHOOTS team,” he said. -he declares.

White Bird Clinic is the mental health agency that administers CAHOOTS, but the program’s budget of $ 798,000 comes from the police department’s budget. These dollars pay for mobile units made up of a nurse (nurse, paramedic or paramedic) and a trained crisis manager. Tinseth said CAHOOTS teams are available around the clock responding to a range of mental health-related crises, including substance abuse, suicide threats, conflict resolution and wellness checks.

Most calls arrive at the 911 center, but some are from the department’s non-emergency line or from people asking for help after seeing the CAHOOTS vehicle.

“A caller takes the information and determines if the call is appropriate for a CAHOOTS response,” Tinseth said.

A dispatcher then reviews the details and will send the CAHOOTS team if this is the appropriate response.

For example, the team would not be sent to deal with an armed person who is considering suicide.

The dispatcher can decide to send the police, as well as the CAHOOTS team, or the team can ask the police for help.

Once there, the team contacts the person who needs the services, determines what that person needs and then tries to meet those needs.

“A lot of times it’s a matter of checking vital signs to make sure there isn’t a medical issue,” Tinseth said. “Sometimes it’s advice and sometimes it’s access because the team is the gateway to many social services.

“If the crisis is about housing, they can make referrals, or if it’s alcohol or mental health treatment, they can make referrals.”

Working with agencies that have the resources and expertise to help people with addictions, homelessness or mental health emergencies is critical to the success of programs like CAHOOTS, Tinseth said.

“If you don’t have the basic services to underpin this program, it’s going to have a hard time,” Tinseth said. “For example, Olympia, Washington had a program in place based on ours, but at that time they didn’t have a sobering-up center so they had nowhere to take anyone who was intoxicated.”

Rebekah Go, a Faith In Indiana member who has worked with St. Joseph County officials to find alternatives to jail for people facing mental health crises, said the county has not Walk-in center for mental health emergencies means these people end up either in a hospital emergency room or in jail.

“A Crisis Response Team would be amazing because these things very rarely happen between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday and it can be pretty scary to have something happen late in the afternoon. on Friday or in the middle of the night on a Tuesday, “Come on, said.

Go believes the Crisis Intervention Center could be a way for people with mental health crisis to get assessments, help and referrals. The center could be a place where people could receive emergency services and be referred to other agencies that could meet their long-term needs.

Still, Go said, there needs to be better coordination and communication between agencies currently helping people with mental health, addiction, housing and other issues. She added that the St. Joseph County Health Department should play a leading role in working with agencies to develop a coordinated system of mental health care.

This is where discussions about reforming or reimagining policing can become that elusive good news where change is not only possible, but more likely than not.

Almost all stakeholders believe that prison should not be the default treatment center for those with mental health or addiction issues, and there is perhaps no greater advocate for change than the St. Joseph County Sheriff, William Redman.

Redman said he made it a priority to find alternatives to jail for people with mental health emergencies and had worked with Faith In Indiana on this issue for several years.

There is also broad agreement on the importance of having the health ministry play a leading role in coordinating a systematic response so that it is easier for a mobile unit to connect those in need. of services with the agencies that provide them. Just ask County Health Officer Robert Einterz.

“We recognize that different organizations have their respective roles and that their main goal is to do the best possible job (and) they don’t always think about the system as a whole,” Einterz said. “So it becomes the responsibility of the Department of Health to take a step back and help imagine the system, and then convene representatives of the organizations to work together to identify where there might be gaps and work on together on solutions to these shortcomings. ”

Email South Bend Tribune reporter Howard Dukes at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @DukesHoward

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