Q: How can BHA’s Blueprint help Californians make policy choices in regards to the state’s homeless crisis? Cruz: Prevention, early intervention: there are several strategies. It’s really getting people early, and that doesn’t necessarily mean an age. It’s symptom onset. Often times it is the age of 14 to 25 when we start to see a lot of early signs and symptoms. And so the idea is not only to bring a lot of awareness but provided services. And those services need to be offered by both public and private insurance. It needs to have doors toward education, screening early our kids. But also, it needs to make sure that we are not leaving behind those who need acute care right now. Cruz: Housing and homelessness are very different when we are talking about the behavioral health population. To have a house and have rent subsidies is one thing. But for people with serious mental illness and substance abuse, we need more. That means there needs to be a significant investment in making sure there are supportive services wrapped into these housing opportunities for people with behavioral health issues. There needs to be more housing with a focus on healing so they can stay housed and actually solve this housing, homelessness issue. This is a multifaceted problem that needs a strategy that has varying different touchpoints because a one-size-fits-all or silver bullet to solve this crisis isn’t going to work.
Cruz: Right now our behavioral health response is really about serving those people who are the most severe. The way that our system is set up is kind of like a fail first. We have to become a danger to ourselves, others or gravely disabled before we can receive immediate care. And our blueprint is saying we actually need to flip that triangle, where most of our services and energy need to go to prevention so we don’t go down the road to having people in crisis all the time. Q: How does an inverted triangle apply to behavioral health in California?
Q: Exactly how will the prevention first model work? NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz is the BHA’s co-chair. She shared insights on how the organization’s framework could be used to improve behavioral health treatment in California from an acute care model to a prevention first model.
Cruz: There are several pieces of policy at the Capitol right now. One includes a number that people can call instead of the 911 number. There is a piece of legislation trying to make it through committee to call a 988 number, and that number would be an alternative to law enforcement. So it would help send out community response, whether that’s a clinician, a family member, a peer. There are several different types of solutions happening across California, happening across the nation that are better alternatives to law enforcement with much better outcomes. A behavioral health crisis deserves a behavioral health response, not a criminal justice one. Q: How can communities, including law enforcement, better respond to emergencies related to behavioral health issues?
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