Damon Connolly on Homelessness

As a member of the Board of Supervisors Subcommittee on Homelessness and Chair of the Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Committee I have made homelessness and the oftentimes related issue of behavioral health top priorities. As promised in my campaign, I have worked hard to scrutinize the County’s $50 million mental health budget to make sure funding for mental health services is working in conjunction with funding for homeless services to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness. We need to make sure every dollar is being maximized to improve lives and our community. 

Laura’s Law/Assisted Outpatient Treatment Implementation

Based on specific court-evaluated criteria, Laura’s Law, or AB 1421, provides outpatient services to those suffering from severe mental illness who have refused treatment yet are at risk of harming themselves, others, or unable to care for their own basic needs. I originally brought the issue to the Board of Supervisors in early 2016 but was defeated on a 4-1 vote. I then worked closely with families, advocates, mental health professionals and members of the community, building the case as to why Laura’s Law could be a tool for helping those with severe mental illness oftentimes living on our streets. In March 2017, the Board of Supervisors agreed, and on a 5-0 vote decided to implement a two-year pilot program enacting Laura’s Law in Marin.

Bolstering County Mental Health Services

During my first term, the County has added three units to our mental health outreach program:

  • The Mobile Crisis Response Team, which responds to mental health crises throughout the County;
  • The Outreach and Engagement Team, which proactively seeks out the homeless to help them access services; and
  • The Triage Team, which works with the precariously housed and those whose mental illness threatens their housing status.

We continue to leverage County resources towards the most proactive, effective services to address the underlying mental health conditions that lead to homelessness.

Strengthening Partnership with City of San Rafael to Alleviate Impacts on Downtown

A key part of my platform in running for Supervisor was to improve the working relationship between the County and City of San Rafael. As a former San Rafael City Councilmember, I have a unique understanding of the issues that face residents, businesses and visitors in San Rafael, and how important it is to have a strong partnership between the County and City in addressing these issues.

With my support, the City has added a mental health professional on their police force and a staff person dedicated to coordinating homeless services. Meanwhile, the County has added staff in the same capacity. As a result, County and City staff now are coordinating consistently and working effectively together, alongside service providers. This increased level of cooperation is best embodied in the recent success of our Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) – discussed below.

Implementation of Homeless Outreach Team

During my first term, we implemented a program to prioritize help to the chronically homeless on the streets of downtown San Rafael called the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) based on a successful model in San Mateo. The Homeless Outreach Team represents a newly elevated level of coordination among service providers in Marin. The Homeless Outreach Team works to identify specific individuals who are high-utilizers of expensive public services, and have a disproportionate impact on our neighborhoods and public systems.

From there, the HOT team aims to end this “revolving door” by working intensively on a plan towards permanent housing. By focusing on specific individuals and coordinating across a range of agencies and service providers, the goal is to triage each individual’s needs by creating an individualized housing action plan, and then hold each provider accountable as that plan is implemented.

We’ve capitalized on our success with this approach to launch an overall Housing First strategy to meet the challenges of our most vulnerable.

Better Coordination with the Court System and Improving Mental Health Services in Jail

I am spearheading County efforts around how our Health and Human Services divisions can work in concert with Jail Detention Services to address the unique challenges around people suffering from mental illness in the criminal justice system.  This is part of an effort I am leading locally to implement the Stepping Up Initiative, an innovative nationwide effort to address the mental health crisis in our county jails. Through my advocacy, the Board of Supervisors passed a Stepping Up resolution and has also made these efforts a budget priority. I am working to achieve a more coordinated relationship between County service providers and the courts to ensure that people in the judicial system have access to the right behavioral health resources.  We’ve been recognized by Marin County’s Presiding Judge for our work in this area.

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