CAM’s Mental Health CARE Teams

In July the Point Reyes Light dedicated a front page story to describing how Peter Planteen, the Supervising Peer Case Manager for Community Action Marin’s mobile outreach teams works with the homeless population in West Marin. View the article on the Point Reyes Light website.

Peter, who heads CARE Team I, works with the homeless mentally ill throughout Marin County. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays you’ll find Peter driving around West Marin checking up on homeless clients in Bolinas, Point Reyes Station, Inverness and points in between. The main focus of CARE Team I is to serve the county’s severely mentally ill population, primarily those who are homeless or who are at risk of homelessness. Read more about Community Action Marin’s Mental Health Services.

The objective is to successfully transition clients to mental health services and housing programs like the County’s Odyssey program. In the Point Reyes Light article Peter explains how he attempts to bring clients to services: “I find them, and then we make a bridge of trust through time”. This can mean encounters that take place over many months or even years, with Peter conducting wellness checks, bringing people food, socks or sleeping bags until they are receptive to accessing services and, hopefully, finding permanent affordable housing. Usually Peter is accompanied on his rounds by Peer Case Manager Kate Calvano, who is currently “on loan” to the Outreach and Engagement Team, another mental health mobile outreach team that engages with homeless people on a long term basis until they are willing to access services and receive additional supports. The Outreach and Engagement Team is made up of a licensed clinician and a peer case manager working together.

Begun as a pilot project, the San Rafael CARE Team II works the streets in much the same way but with a focus on the homeless population who tend to congregate in the downtown area. CARE Team II works not only with the homeless mentally ill but the entire homeless population. Like CARE Team I, their method is to engage people on a regular basis, sometimes providing immediate assistance – transportation to the Detox Center, a homeless shelter or even the hospital – or working to connect people with other services that result in permanent housing. Lead Case Manager Harold Grant and his partner Jay Mansfield are a familiar sight in downtown San Rafael, working closely with the San Rafael Police Department and often providing interventions in situations that the police would otherwise have to deal with. Beginning in 2015 the San Rafael Police Department requested funding from the County Probation Department’s Community Corrections Partnership to continue CARE Team II in San Rafael. Encouraged by the success of the downtown San Rafael CARE Team, the Novato Police Department asked theCommunity Corrections Partnership to fund a CARE Team III in Novato. Within the next month, Community Action Marin’s Mental Health Department will begin recruitment and training for a team that will work with the homeless population in Novato.

The CARE Team members and the police officers they work with agree that the Peer Case Managers provide an invaluable link to the homeless community, and that peo-ple are often more receptive to accepting help and guid-ance from a person who they perceive as “more like them” than an officer in uniform. All of the CARE Team members have personal experience with mental health issues, homelessness, and drug /alcohol dependencies. This experience helps to make them more ‘relatable” to the people they interact with, whether it is on the streets of San Rafael or the hills of West Marin.

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