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Disturbing the peace: Neighborhood problem sheds light on county mental health issues

FORTUNA- It's something we all hope for in our communities: peace, safety and respect. But one local community feels their rights are being violated from within.

The residents of Guido Avenue in Fortuna are fed up. The tight-knit community has lived day and night for five years with curses, screaming and even spit hailed at them on their own street.

"My personal experience has been anything form having my car spit on while driving, her playing chicken in the road and requiring me to stop my vehicle while she passes by, being verbally assaulted, morning, noon, night, in the middle of the night. Screaming death threats," Guido Avenue Resident Janna Campillo said. "Anything that you could possibly imagine."

Other residents say their children are too afraid to go outside.

"We cannot have any activity outside without the resident constantly cussing threatening," Resident George Palmer said. "The children in this area are afraid to go outside. They have children behind them that won't play in their back yard. We have children here that won't go out because they're scared."

On Tuesday the neighborhood turned out to the city council meeting, begging for some kind of relief. But there's not much police and the city can do other than make arrests and issue abatements for the resident's un-kept lawn.

"The city is doing everything we can legally and everyone's just reached a frustration level that that they need some help and we're all sending letters to the D.A. to get her attention and hoping that legally there's some way to help this situation," Fortuna Mayor Sue Long said.

Now it's in the hands of the D.A.. to find help.

"We sent 17 criminal cases to the district attorney to the DA for prosecution," Fortuna Police Chief Bill Dobberstein said.

But it's an issue that all North Coast communities face. How to address a growing population with mental illness?

With county psychiatrists in desperate need at mental health and a growing workload as patients continue to file in, the average wait time to see a doctor at an outpatient clinic is at 4 months and counting.

But the problem goes deeper, if a patient is seen and treated, it's their choice to follow doctor recommends.

"It's just a matter of her taking the help and moving forward with mental health professionals and that's really the key to resolving the issue," Chief Dobberstein said.

So how do we address the issue of mental illness while protecting the freedoms and rights of all people?

"We have civil rights just like hers and the question is where does hers stop and our begin?" Palmer said.

Residents, city officials and law enforcement are left without an answer.

News Channel 3 spoke with District Attorney Maggie Fleming Thursday about the issue. The D.A. said a judge can refer a defendant to get a mental health evaluation and that defendant could be ordered to receive treatment. That's what the office is seeking in the Guido Avenue resident's trial. But the question of how to properly address mental illness in Humboldt County as a whole, remains.