Measure O Newsletter Fall 2022
Tina Rivera, Director, Department of Health Services at a homeless encampment
A Message of Hope - Tina Rivera
In November 2020, Sonoma County voters approved Measure O, with more than two-thirds of the vote, to expand access to services for mental health and homelessness countywide. This victory authorized a one-quarter cent sales tax, providing $25 million each year for 10 years and demonstrating again that Sonoma County is resilient, compassionate—and committed to recovery and taking the necessary steps to get there.
To assist with the implementation of Measure O, I am very pleased to announce that Jan Cobaleda-Kegler, PsyD, LMFT, has joined the Sonoma County Department of Health Services as the Behavioral Health Division Director. Jan brings her extensive experience in mental health practices, serving children, youth, adults, and families in a broad spectrum of community-based mental health treatment settings that include inpatient treatment, residential treatment, and specialty mental health.
Communities of Resilience and Recovery
Measure O funding has been in our county for more than a year now, and we're eager to share with you some of the important and healing work occurring as a result of the generosity of our community. While the effects of the COVID pandemic aren’t over—and the variants take on new forms and impact our various communities differently—there are still many successes taking place across Sonoma County due in large part to Measure O.
Housing and Homelessness - A Complex Issue
For many who experience chronic homelessness, housing without personalized care and case management typically leads to poor outcomes. Any homeless system of care, including ours in Sonoma County, needs supportive housing units to help individuals with complex needs to be successful in their housing placement. Measure O funds a number of these critical supports, including case workers, mental health specialists, and navigators who provide expertise regarding supportive and transitional housing in new sites across the County, including Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, and Guerneville. More than 200 new units are coming online this fall to meet this important need in Sonoma County. This level of care is an expensive, but critical, investment in our community. The right kind of care delivered by qualified professionals dramatically increases the likelihood of breaking the patterns that lead to a life on the streets, offering a real opportunity for a permanent home, stability, and improved mental and physical health.
Supportive housing helps get people the care they need while
Coming Soon to Rohnert Park
Labath Landing groundbreaking ceremony and new construction
This new construction project in western Rohnert Park adds 60 units of interim supportive housing to Central Sonoma County. Led by the City of Rohnert Park, the County of Sonoma, and HomeFirst/Dignity Moves, this Project Homekey 2 funded site will open in late fall 2022. Labath Landing will include dining spaces, a community garden and community commons, storage for bikes and personal items, and a counseling services space.
Coming Soon to Healdsburg
This renovation of the former L&M Motel will add 22 units of interim supportive housing to North Sonoma County. Led by the City of Healdsburg, the County of Sonoma, and Reach for Home, the Project Homekey 2 funded L&M Village will be a key step in providing “Housing First” care to our unsheltered residents. Opening fall 2022, L&M Village will house individuals for 30 days and offer residents case management services seven days a week, featuring a 3:1 resident-to-case manager ratio, along with daily therapeutic activities; an on-site mental health professional available once a week by appointment; community mobile health and wellness unit on-site once a week; on- and off-site drug and alcohol treatment; employment services and job-seeking assistance; a community garden program; and a facilities mentoring program.
More Measure O Success Stories
Improving the lives of individuals and families struggling with homelessness has long been a goal of Sonoma County’s social service professionals. Measure O funding is allowing more opportunities to effect real change for our residents. Here are just three of the many individual success stories resulting from this new measure:
Meet Elena R.
Elena was residing at the Ballfield Trailers, a temporary local homeless shelter near the Fairgrounds, which was set to shut down soon. Elena's case manager talked with her about ways to handle stress and manage her health, as they embarked on a housing search with her. Staff helped Elena prepare an application packet that she could give to landlords, and she was given new listings almost every day. Elena went to viewings with Sonoma County staff and was able to go by herself, as well. Sonoma County staff began working with Elena to find suitable housing on May 31. By July 1, Elena had secured a rental cottage in rural Cotati, which was the perfect fit for her. The landlady was looking for someone just like Elena, and the peaceful country property was also home to llamas, a cow, a rooster, chickens, and two dogs. Elena wants people to know that this only could have happened because of the fantastic teamwork of the Interdepartmental Multidisciplinary Team (IMDT). Elena’s case manager, the Disaster Emergency Management Associates (DEMA) staff, her healthcare providers, and her Housing Navigator all worked together to create the groundwork necessary for her to find safe and secure housing.
Meet Bradley H.
Bradley is a middle-aged man, who used to be a security guard. Between 2009 and 2016, he had suffered three heart attacks. His heart condition led to him losing his job and eventually becoming homeless in 2018. Bradley's medical condition requires him to use a pacemaker and defibrillator. He also suffers from hypertension, anxiety, and depression. Early in 2021, Bradley was referred to and granted placement at the Astro Motel, a temporary non-congregate site (NCS) and temporary shelter. He was later approved to move to Hotel Azura, another hotel acquired through Project Homekey for transitional housing in September 2021. Although Bradley was able to secure these placements, there were still challenges to overcome. A Sonoma County employee noticed that he qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance, which is work-credit based. Because he was already rendered disabled and the amount he was receiving was unusually low, Bradley was advised to contact Social Security again and request Security Supplemental Income, which is need-based. He was awarded these benefits in early in 2021. Bradley’s situation continues to improve. In April of 2022, he was granted an Emergency Housing Voucher. He then contacted his former landlord who was happy to rent to him again. By June 1, 2022, Bradley moved to a place of his own and is renting housing in Santa Rosa. Bradley is a great example of success: perseverance, as well as mental and physical toughness. He appreciates the County and DEMA for the services they provide. He took this opportunity to tell his story to serve as inspiration and reason for other people to persevere. Supportive housing helps people get the care they need while housed to stabilize their lives and prepare them for their next steps. Measure O helps fund these services.
Meet Crystal C.
Crystal had been homeless on and off since 2018—living in encampments and on the streets in various towns. These conditions have been extremely challenging for her. Crystal spoke of a particularly difficult experience living under a bridge in Stockton. She suffers from a variety of medical conditions, ranging from breast cancer to chronic heart failure and cerebellar stroke. She also has mobility issues, which require the use of a walker or cane. In January 2021, Crystal was given the opportunity to stay at the Ballfield Trailers shelter. She stayed there until July of 2021, when she was approved for a room at the Sebastopol Inn, another hotel purchased for homeless housing. Crystal followed the rules and is always grateful for the services she receives. Notwithstanding her medical conditions, her circumstances continued to improve and she was granted an Emergency Housing Voucher in January 2022. With the help and determination of her Sonoma County Housing Navigator, Crystal was recently able to secure a studio in Windsor. The town of Windsor is an ideal place for Crystal, as she has an aunt who lives there. What’s more, Crystal is receiving In-Home Support Services (IHSS) from her niece. Being close to family adds confidence and security to Crystal’s life, and she is very appreciative of the County and DEMA as well. Crystal is indeed, a success story.
Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) launched inRESPONSE in January 2022. The inRESPONSE program has been a multi-agency collaborative to provide a Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) style response to the City of Santa Rosa. The inRESPONSE van team is comprised of a City of Santa Rosa paramedic, Catholic Charities Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) staff, and a Sonoma County Behavioral Health Mobile Support Team (MST) clinician. This mobile response team is dispatched through SRPD to respond to 911 calls, or calls that come through the community line, for families and individuals experiencing a mental health, housing, or substance use crises. In the first quarter of the team operating the van, they responded to 487 calls for services. The inRESPONSE system navigation team is a truly integral part the inRESPONSE program and has provided individualized support for 121 individuals and families with more than 600 contacts for those individuals in the first quarter. System Navigation is provided by Buckelew Programs and Humanidad Therapy and Education. The System Navigators provide support after a crisis to help individuals linked to therapy services, medication appointments, and other supportive services.
Feedback from the Field
Both the mobile response team and the navigation team have received largely positive feedback from the families that inRESPONSE has interacted with, while providing support and an appropriate intervention for their loved ones experiencing a crisis. The community would like to see more of this targeted outreach to our underserved populations. With that, we're pleased to share that Phase II of the inRESPONSE program is expected to roll out in the fall of 2022 and will included expanded hours of operation, with services starting at 7:00 am, along with an additional response van and system navigator.
988 Crisis Lifeline
Beginning on July 16, 2022, instead of dialing 9-1-1, emergency calls can now be placed to 988 for urgent help when experiencing a mental health or substance-use crisis, or when witnessing another person facing a behavioral health challenge. What's more, with this new phoneline, when a caller’s home call center is at capacity, they are rerouted to another center that can take the call more quickly. The ultimate goal is for the trained counselors on the lifeline to connect callers to local support services to meet their long-term needs. Locally, staff with Buckelew Programs based in Novato operate the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and receive 988 calls, quickly evaluating the emergency and utilizing trained crisis counselors to provide an appropriate intervention.
This is a first step toward a transformed national crisis care system.