Monday night I went to a meeting conducted by NAMI/Marin. NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental illness. Many homeless are mentally ill (24% according to the 2013 Homeless Census). Some have a dual diagnosis meaning substance abuse with mental illness.
The reason I went to the meeting was that there was a presentation given by CARE Team II. This team operates in downtown San Rafael only. It is funded by Marin County and is operated by Community Action Marin.
The team consists of two peer people and a van. Both peer people have been prior substance abusers and have been diagnosed with mental illness that is under control. There is a good reason for using peer people for this application as they relate better to those that they deal with. Team members do not treat people or transport them. They make every attempt to connect those homeless with various agencies that can help them on the road to recovery. The objective is to get those on the streets to take the offer of help and go on to lead a normal life.
The Team members related to the audience about what they see on the streets everyday. It isn't pretty for sure. Some are passed out on the sidewalks, some are having a mental episodes, some just want help, many are off their meds. Never a dull day and lots to do. The Team has working relationships with many agencies and facilities that they refer homeless to. Here is a partial list:
Enterprise Resource Center
Helen Vine Detox
Skilled nursing facilities
Mill Street Shelter
San Rafael Police Department Home Team
San Rafael Fire Department Paramedics (ambulance to Marin General, or first aid)
and many others
There is also a CARE Team I that covers the entire County and deals primarily with families and in-home problems.
Present at the meeting was a Marin County Mental Health Care worker who told of some new programs for the mentally ill. More on this tomorrow.
About this time the meeting got very chaotic. Around the room came complaints about the mental health care system. "I brought my brother here from New York and he is living on the streets. I have been turned away from every agency". "You aren't helping me get help for my child", "My spouse is abusing me and I can't get help". "My uncle has episodes of violence". "I brought my son here from LA. He is dual diagnosis and I can't get help. Can you help me?" This continued on and on. These statements were coming from all over the room, one after the other, some in tears. It was awful and I left.
Here is my conclusion about the meeting. The CARE Teams are very busy doing what they do. They function well and have proven to be effective. Maybe we need more of them judging by the volume of emails that I get daily. The system of mental health care is broken with providers tripping all over each other. There are so many avenues for mental health care that the normal person doesn't know where to go for help. Forget getting help on your own if you are homeless and mentally ill. Many don't want help and chose to live their lives as they are. Then there are the families that want to care for the mentally ill in the best way they know how, but they don't know the best course of action.
All these problems are compounded by the Privacy Act and the Homeless Management Information System. Families that are often the lifeline for homeless and mentally ill are not entitled to any information about their loved ones. The system is broken!!!!