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Community Community Encinitas Featured

Mental health funding gets unanimous approval

REGION — A growing concern in San Diego County received much needed financial support from the Board of Supervisors last week.

The board unanimously (4-0) approved up to $10 million to provide housing for mentally-ill people at their Sept. 29 meeting. The funds expand the Behavioral Health Services Permanent Supportive Housing Program, which has grown to 241 homes since its creation in 2008.

Supervisor Dave Roberts spearheaded the action saying a long-term solution must be the course of action to combat the issues with mental health, especially the homeless individuals.

“Mental health has been one of my priorities since I came to the board,” Roberts said. “I partnered with Supervisor Diane Jacobs and we did a review of all the things going on in mental health.”

The $10 million is just part of the $145.5 million spending plan for funds from the state’s Mental Health Services Act approved in 2004.

Yet another boost to combating the problem, Roberts added, is the construction of a crisis center in Escondido.

“People get the treatment they need and then it’s like what happens to them?” he said. “Housing is one of the key missing components. We are now expanding the number of units through this funding. You want programs for the long haul. You don’t want to do quick fixes that may create more problems in the long run.”

Perhaps the biggest concern is homeless people who suffer from serious mental illness.

At the Community Resource Center in Encinitas, Development Manager Kathleen Kelley said about 50 percent of individuals who visit the organization suffer from mental illness. In addition, she said the center serves 50 people each day in their bread line that fall into the mentally-ill category.

“It’s a huge step away from the Band-Aid approach with a deliberate intention for long-term healing and recovery,” Kelley added. “One of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of being a service provider is the ability to not to go the distance with that client and ensure their stability. The single most important contributing factor will be their stability and housing.”

Kelley said one of the biggest challenges in keeping mentally-ill people returning is creating strong resources such as long-term therapy, case managers, scheduling medical appointments, transportation and housing, among others.

As for the homeless population, Kelley said there are 634 people in the coastal region in cities such as Encinitas, Carlsbad and parts of San Marcos and Oceanside.

Those individuals, Roberts said, are a primary target to begin building a support system, which starts with housing.

“We got to make sure we can identify the units and get people into them,” he explained. “I think this will go fairly expeditiously now that we got the funding. The housing may be for the rest of the client’s life. We know the need is there … and unfortunately this ties into homelessness.”

The plan includes resources for Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams, In-Home Outreach Teams and the implementation of Laura’s Law, which provides for court-ordered treatment of severely mentally-ill people who refuse care and present a risk to themselves or others; funding for prevention and early-intervention programs; the development of “Innovation” programs that provide family therapy, treatment for caregivers, hoarding intervention and peer-based assistance; resources for the care — and caregivers — of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients; workforce education and training; and physical and technological improvements to existing mental health centers, including the completion of a residential crisis stabilization center in Escondido.