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New program launches to help Eureka’s homeless with mental illnesses

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EUREKA- Mental illness plagues nearly 60 percent of Eureka’s homeless population.

But a pilot program by the Eureka Police Department and the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services is reaching out to those with mental illnesses that need help.

“We're finally bringing the different pieces together because the city of eureka couldn't do it on their own, health and human services cant do it on their own, and what was really needed was more of an integrated approach,” said 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass, who helped organize the program.

As part of the new program, health therapists from the DHHS will ride along with eureka police officers when responding to welfare calls. The therapists will then talk to the person and figure out what kind of help they need.

“That's why we're licensed clinicians to be able to talk to an individual and determine not only if they have a mental illness but what type of illness is likely to be going on and then what's the best treatment for that,” said Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Director Phillip Crandall.

From these visits, the departments intend to take those suffering from mental illness to the DHHS’ health clinic for evaluation and treatment.

The program will also help them sign up for health insurance and get a primary doctor, find affordable housing, or secure a bus ticket home to relatives. 

“This type of intervention can actually help lower the incidences of issues with law enforcement, keep them out of the emergency rooms, and keep them out of the psychiatric facilities,” Bass said.

Officials from both departments hope the program will be the first step to solving the city’s homeless issue.

“I see it as a very positive movement. I think it's been a discussion that has been happening for many years and you know the fact that it's moving forward i think is a great sign,” Bass said. “I think there's a great partnership.”