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EPD and DHHS team up to serve Eureka's homeless and mentally ill

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EUREKA- A new partnership between the Eureka Police Department and the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services is designed to improve the quality of life in Eureka. 

Last Thursday, an EPD officer and a Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health Clinician together began contacting Eureka’s homeless and mentally ill out in the community, as part of the Mobile Intervention and Services Team (MIST).

"Policing is a very complex and difficult job and so is mental health workers on that side, that's very complex also.  To expect one person to have all of that knowledge in one location is really difficult," said EPD Police Chief Andrew Mills.

"What we're trying to do is to encounter, to meet with, to assess individuals out in the streets and begin to understand who these individuals are, what their stories are and then based on those stories, what services and supports they might need," said Phillip Crandall, the Director of Humboldt County DHHS.

Then, a DHHS Case Manager who is part of MIST will work with the homeless to connect them with necessary services, including counseling, medication support, substance abuse services and housing.

"We have rapid re-housing stock, some available, and we'll be scrambling to look at what type of housing is available with the case manager to locate and place in housing.  If they need a more stable environment, we'll bring them to our hospital, our psychiatric emergency services," Crandall said.

MIST is targeting the 30 people in Eureka who are generating the most calls for service to kick-off the program.  Then, the team will continue to serve other homeless and mentally ill people in the city.

In July, when the Multiple Assistance Center in Eureka is converted into housing individuals and not families, people contacted by MIST will be able to temporarily live there as well.

Police Chief Mills says the new team will benefit the police department, as well.

"If we can just deal with one person a week and get them the help they need, that's 52 people a year, and 52 people a year off the streets creating fewer radio calls can be as much as 500 to 1,000 radio calls a year, allowing us to get out and get after other crime problems," Police Chief Mills said.

Officials say the program will continue to evolve.

"We're going to change maybe how we operate occasionally to make it the best way possible to impact the homeless in our area," said Police Chief Mills.