Hope on the Horizon for Mentally Ill Homeless

Triage grant teams up professionals in Ventura County

By Lori Denman-Underhill

The subset of the homeless in Ventura and Oxnard who suffer from mental health issues has help arriving on the horizon.

There is a triage grant starting this month that was given to Ventura County Behavioral Health (VCBH), who then approached the Ventura and Oxnard Sheriff Departments to team up a full-time mental health professional with a police officer. There will be one team in Oxnard and another in Ventura. These teams will hit the towns and hopefully get the chance to speak with each homeless person with mental health issues and work to get them assistance.

Citizens Journal interviewed Police Sergeant Jerry Foreman, who leads the Patrol Task Force (PTF) in Ventura County and Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney, who are both pleased with the opportunities to help with the grant.

“The new program with County Public Health is called the Mental Health Triage Grant,” Corney explained to Citizens Journal in a prior interview. “This allows a mental health professional to team up with a police officer and respond to calls involving a person experiencing a mental health crisis in a public place. The County was awarded the grant and invited us to participate. I think it will be an effective tool for us and further our partnership with mental health specialists.”

Oxnard Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites said of the grant, “Our Crisis Intervention Officer would be with the mental health professional, working 40 hours a week. Their job is to identify those mental health consumers or clients who who are at risk, to see if they can do some sort of intervention before they relapse.”

“I think that’s an important and much needed aspect of getting them service,” explained Oxnard Police Department Commander Kevin Basinger to Citizens Journal.  “There are so many homeless with mental health issues. A lot of these boundaries are blurred between homelessness and mental health. We are excited to start this program to help those with these issues.”

Baysinger hopes that this program attains success. It is also the police department’s hopes for an expansion of the program that will add additional officers and mental health professionals.

“Down the road it should reap rewards,” he added. “We can connect the person with the right services.”

There are those who do not admit that they have an issue and also do not accept services or programs. Baysinger hopes the partnership will help get the homeless suffering from mental illness into therapy. There is a small group of people who have severe mental illness, are homeless and also refuse programs or services, including prescription medication.

“If this team can reach a homeless person who is mentally ill, we can hopefully help them before it gets to the point of the person becoming a danger to themselves or others and having to place them on a 5150 hold,” Baysinger added. “At least with someone there, we can try to get them into services at that point. From these calls and those that have to do with homeless vagrancy, it has been draining our resources.”

It is expected with the grant partnership that the team on the streets will decrease calls and allow the police department to attend to other emergencies.

Sandra Troxel with the Salvation Army said that regarding the homeless with mental illnesses, there are some of them that do not respond or accept services. She said, “Something in the legislation needs to change, in order to get them help.”

Lori Denman-Underhill has been a professional journalist since 1996. She has worked as associate editor for the Los Angeles Daily News TODAY Magazines and has freelanced for LA Weekly, Surfline.com and more. She is now the Ventura reporter for Citizens Journal.

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8 Responses to Hope on the Horizon for Mentally Ill Homeless

  1. Lori Denman July 7, 2018 at 4:11 pm


    Story on 5150 Hold

  2. William Hicks July 7, 2018 at 9:37 am

    For those who might want to look into this issue of mental illness homeless people on our streets, you might want to google “5150 hold.”

  3. William Hicks July 7, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Where has the funds from Proposition 63 been used before, and what were the results? Were the population of “homeless people with mental illness” reduced from the streets?

  4. William Hicks July 7, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Do a search on California Proposition 63, that was approved in 2004 by the electorate. It was an increase in State taxes to address mental health concerns.

    Maybe, another article might be on Proposition 63 and it’s genesis and past use.

  5. C E Voigtsberger July 7, 2018 at 7:14 am

    Sandra Troxel made the only cogent comment in the article. The rest seem to be playing the same old refrain. “If only we throw enough money at the problem it will go away.”

    Mr. Hicks: You didn’t miss the source. It wasn’t listed. Don’t know why.

  6. William Hicks July 6, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    I may have missed it in the article, but I don’t believe I saw the source of the Grant. Where did it initially come from?


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