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Police partnership aims to help Turlocks mentally ill
TPD crime scene

The Turlock Police Department is launching a new partnership with Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services in an effort to get the mentally ill in Turlock’s homeless community the services they need.

The Homeless Engagement Multidisciplinary Team will partner trained behavioral health professionals and police officers with critical incident training for an outreach effort to those who have a mental illness and/or substance abuse issues and have been caught in a cycle of arrest and/or victimization.

The goal of the outreach effort is to meet with the individuals and get them the referrals and connections they need to behavioral health services and other social services.

“This will be a proactive and more cost-effective way of getting to the individuals in need and helping them deal with their issues, while making our community a safer place for everyone,” said Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson.

Similar programs have been done in other cities and Jackson said he had the idea of starting one in Turlock after reading an article in the Journal about Turlock native Justin Verette and the work he is doing in Vermont. Verette is assigned to the Burlington Police Department as a clinical interventionist and is dispatched out to calls involving the mentally ill to check on their welfare and if needed, help diffuse any potentially violent situations.

“I thought it was an interesting approach to a problem that we were also facing here,” Jackson said. “I had the chance to meet with Justin Verette and it seemed like an option for us to use that would get people out of a cycle of arrest and get them the help they need.”

The program aims to have a behavioral health professional join an officer out on patrol for a few hours each week. The program will also have the members meeting once a month to identify those in need and “collaboratively develop, implement, and monitor strategic interventions” for them, according to the memorandum of understanding between the two departments.

The two-day point in time count conducted in January of this year tallied up 1,408 homeless individuals living in Stanislaus County, up from the 1,156 recorded in 2014 and 1,201 in 2013. The Stanislaus County Housing Authority, which oversaw the count, interviewed 892 individuals and reported 42 percent of those individuals said they had some form of mental illness. Another 32 percent said they used alcohol, while 25 percent said they used illegal narcotics. In Turlock, the group observed or interviewed 186 homeless individuals.