By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
The Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness hosted an online community meeting Monday, November 16, to discuss an uptick of mentally ill homeless individuals across Los Angeles.
Sharon Browning, co-chair of PPTFH, spearheaded the meeting and humanized the issues the task force has dealt with when performing outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness. She did this by sharing anecdotes of those who camp among the streets of the Palisades or at Will Rogers State Beach—highlighting the fact that there are some individuals unable to communicate with the outreach team, or who they find covered in dirt and sores.
“We have other individuals on our streets in similar conditions who we are helplessly watching deteriorate, it’s hard on all of us to stand by and watch,” Browning said. “It’s hard to explain to others who don’t understand why this is allowed, and are frightened and disturbed by what they see.”
Browning said since the task force began in 2016, seven severely mentally ill individuals living unsheltered have died. She said PPTFH feels strongly about making progress in the area of mental health and is seeking tools, treatment, facilities and legislation to facilitate this.
“We need a way to start to look at this issue and how we can make a difference,” she said.
PPTFH invited LaTina Jackson, deputy director at LA County Department of Mental Health, as a guest speaker. She said the degree of unsheltered homelessness in LA County is the largest in the country, largely due to economics, such as the cost of housing.
“This is certainly the most pressing issue of our time,” Jackson said.
Jackson works with Homeless Outreach Mobile Engagement teams and spoke about the new Department of Mental Health pilot program, which is meant to help gravely disabled homeless individuals who refuse mental health services.
She explained generalist teams provide support for immediate needs such as clothing and medical treatment, while specialty mental health teams provide specialized care for individuals with severe mental illness, street-based psychiatric assessment, housing placement and support, and more.
“The generalist teams really approach the homeless dilemma in Los Angeles County as sort of a … wide approach,” Jackson said. “The HOME team’s focus is very narrow, for individuals who are experiencing serious mental illness unsheltered.”
The Board of Supervisors passed a motion for the HOME team to participate in a pilot program starting in June of this year, Jackson explained, which has allowed them to initiate outpatient conservatorship. A conservatorship appoints a court-ordered guardian or protector to manage the affairs and finances of someone who is experiencing mental illness. Jackson emphasized that conservatorship is not taken lightly.
The benefits to the outpatient process include the application of a much-needed avenue to initiate care for people who are chronically severely impaired by their mental illness and chronically homeless. There is a continuity of care, meaning that the team knows the people they are trying to assist.
The process also assumes that recovery is possible, Jackson said.
Nick Holt and Maureen Cyr, who oversee the HOME teams in the Palisades, offered some insight on plans moving forward: “One of the things that Nick and I have worked on in the last years has been to continually educate,” Cyr said.
The next PPTFH community meeting is planned for January 25, 2021.
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