SEASIDE—The cycle for people who are homeless and have addiction or mental health issues is like a merry-go-round. Except there is no laughter and the price for the ticket is huge.
At the Community Outreach Emergency Shelter and Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers in Seaside, if someone who may or may not have mental illness is in crisis, the shelter is unable to provide diagnoses or transport. So the shelter calls 911 and the police take the person to the hospital for an evaluation.
“If they can’t find them a bed to get them help someplace, they turn around and release them,” says Alan Evans, CEO of Helping Hands Reentry Centers, which operates the Seaside facility.
“Because we’re the only homeless shelter in Clatsop County, that person ends up coming directly back to our facility, and we’ve used up thousands of dollars just for that situation,” he says. “We want to prevent those costs for the community.”
With the aid of a $20,000 grant from CareOregon, Helping Hands is launching a pilot project to short-circuit the cycle.
Suzanne Evans, MS, will start work June 16, providing on-call crisis management. She will devote multiple hours weekly to providing case management and coordination between the partnering agencies, including shelter, police, hospital and behavioral health. One of the goals is to reduce calls to 911 and help connect individuals quickly to the care they need.
First task: The list of clients already waiting.
“Her caseload starts with nine clients, but we get probably one to two people a week from the emergency shelter, sometimes more than that. An average of eight to 10 people a month,” Alan Evans says.
“A little bit over 75 percent of our calls to 911 are because of mental health situations, and 90 percent of those people just got recycled through the police department, through the hospital and right back to our facility,” he says. “We knew we could save this community tons of money by providing this service, and CareOregon has allowed us to bring this in. And I think that within the next year, we’re going to be able to show a return on investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The grant funds are from CareOregon Community Benefit Grants and support CareOregon’s rural health equity goals.
Case management service is a pilot program, which Helping Hands plans to expand to full time and to introduce in other counties where it operates. In addition to the emergency shelter in Seaside, Helping Hands has longer-term housing for homeless people in Clatsop, Yamhill and Lincoln counties. These include services to help people make the transition from homelessness to the community. An additional emergency shelter is planned for Tillamook County before the end of the year. For information about Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers, contact Alan Evans, CEO, 503-440-9357, email@example.com.