Family says more mental health resources needed for Sacramento homeless

Loved ones are trying to hold on to the memory of Tanisha Deal, a Sacramento woman whose life was cut short after a terrible tragedy.Tanisha’s family told KCRA 3 that she was seriously hurt in a hit-and-run crash in August, near Garden Highway and Northgate Boulevard in Sacramento. Doctors called her injuries “catastrophic.”Watch the full story on KCRA 3 news at 11 p.m.”There was no brain activity. Her legs, her hips, her back, her liver, her lungs were all damaged to the point of no repair,” Tanisha’s sister Johnisha Dunbar said.Family members said Tanisha eventually died from her injuries on Sept. 16. The devastation they feel following her loss is only now settling in.”The pain is just indescribable. We don’t know how to describe it. We’re barely handling it,” Johnisha said.A family calling for changeAdding to the anguish is that Tanisha’s family believes her death could have been avoided. They said Tanisha, a mother of three, was homeless at the time of the crash, and she had been struggling with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for more than a decade. Loved ones said the mental health system let Tanisha fall through the cracks.”That’s partly how we got here. We knew that one day we would have to answer questions or answer the phone call that would change our lives forever, and all we wanted was help,” Johnisha said.While Tanisha’s family said she did get help at some point, they claimed there was little to no follow-up.”The mental health system is dropping the ball,” Tanisha’s mother Claudine Smith said. “You’re dropping the ball, and you create a lot of hurt and pain and death to our loved ones out there that are suffering from these mental illnesses. And I think that they should do more.”Homeless mental health services in Sacramento CountyKCRA 3 spoke to Sacramento County officials, who said when it comes to addressing mental health among the homeless population, they are doing everything they can. But Monica Rocha-Wyatt, who oversees Sacramento County’s behavioral health initiatives for the unhoused, said there are limitations.”It is the client’s, or the person experiencing homelessness, ultimately it is their choice,” Rocha-Wyatt said.Still, Rocha-Wyatt said that as the health program manager for the Sacramento County Department of Health Services, she is encouraging people in need to seek out resources. One avenue is the new Homeless Encampment And Response Team, or HEART. Rocha-Wyatt said HEART meets the unhoused where they are, in order to connect them to the resources that are best suited for them.”We have the ability to assess them for our services and link them to the appropriate level or services right there out in the field, and then the best part of this team, is they don’t stop there. They provide brief case management, to make sure they go to that first intake appointment,” Rocha-Wyatt said.A provider takes over the continuum of care, but the county follows along for the whole process, according to Rocha-Wyatt.Sacramento County Behavioral Health Director Dr. Ryan Quist also said the department is ramping up its resources by transforming its adult outpatient system. They used to have three walk-in sites, but they are currently expanding.”We are now in the middle of implementing our brand-new system of care, which actually increases our number of sites to ten outpatient clinics,” Quist said.A few sites are already open, including one near the American River across from Discovery Park and one in the Natomas area. More are scheduled to be operational soon, Quist said.But Quist added, there are still challenges his department faces – one of which is a workforce crisis.”We need more people to do this important work. We have over 100 vacant clinical positions,” Quist said.Quist said in order to provide a high level of care to the unhoused who experience mental health issues, they need more staff. Quist said they are actively doing hiring events, and they implemented a 16% increase to their compensation package to entice qualified people to apply to those positions.CARE Court legislation signed into law Some families, including Tanisha’s, are also in favor of new legislation that establishes the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment – or CARE – Court system in California. The CARE Court program would make it easier for families and first responders to force mentally ill Californians into psychiatric treatment through court-ordered care.”They should allow the court order, so that mothers and sisters and daughters can go in there and say, ‘My mom is too sick to be out here on the street in this condition,'” Claudine said.While there is some support for the CARE Courts, the program has received backlash from many human rights groups. They claim it goes against people’s freedom of choice and could lead to mentally ill people being stuck inside state hospitals.Links to resourcesClick here for more information from Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services about their Homeless Encampment And Response Team (HEART).Click here for a list of the current and upcoming mental health walk-in sites in Sacramento County.

Loved ones are trying to hold on to the memory of Tanisha Deal, a Sacramento woman whose life was cut short after a terrible tragedy.

Tanisha’s family told KCRA 3 that she was seriously hurt in a hit-and-run crash in August, near Garden Highway and Northgate Boulevard in Sacramento. Doctors called her injuries “catastrophic.”

  • Watch the full story on KCRA 3 news at 11 p.m.

“There was no brain activity. Her legs, her hips, her back, her liver, her lungs were all damaged to the point of no repair,” Tanisha’s sister Johnisha Dunbar said.

Family members said Tanisha eventually died from her injuries on Sept. 16. The devastation they feel following her loss is only now settling in.

“The pain is just indescribable. We don’t know how to describe it. We’re barely handling it,” Johnisha said.

A family calling for change

Adding to the anguish is that Tanisha’s family believes her death could have been avoided. They said Tanisha, a mother of three, was homeless at the time of the crash, and she had been struggling with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for more than a decade.

Loved ones said the mental health system let Tanisha fall through the cracks.

“That’s partly how we got here. We knew that one day we would have to answer questions or answer the phone call that would change our lives forever, and all we wanted was help,” Johnisha said.

While Tanisha’s family said she did get help at some point, they claimed there was little to no follow-up.

“The mental health system is dropping the ball,” Tanisha’s mother Claudine Smith said. “You’re dropping the ball, and you create a lot of hurt and pain and death to our loved ones out there that are suffering from these mental illnesses. And I think that they should do more.”

Homeless mental health services in Sacramento County

KCRA 3 spoke to Sacramento County officials, who said when it comes to addressing mental health among the homeless population, they are doing everything they can. But Monica Rocha-Wyatt, who oversees Sacramento County’s behavioral health initiatives for the unhoused, said there are limitations.

“It is the client’s, or the person experiencing homelessness, ultimately it is their choice,” Rocha-Wyatt said.

Still, Rocha-Wyatt said that as the health program manager for the Sacramento County Department of Health Services, she is encouraging people in need to seek out resources. One avenue is the new Homeless Encampment And Response Team, or HEART. Rocha-Wyatt said HEART meets the unhoused where they are, in order to connect them to the resources that are best suited for them.

“We have the ability to assess them for our services and link them to the appropriate level or services right there out in the field, and then the best part of this team, is they don’t stop there. They provide brief case management, to make sure they go to that first intake appointment,” Rocha-Wyatt said.

A provider takes over the continuum of care, but the county follows along for the whole process, according to Rocha-Wyatt.

Sacramento County Behavioral Health Director Dr. Ryan Quist also said the department is ramping up its resources by transforming its adult outpatient system. They used to have three walk-in sites, but they are currently expanding.

“We are now in the middle of implementing our brand-new system of care, which actually increases our number of sites to ten outpatient clinics,” Quist said.

A few sites are already open, including one near the American River across from Discovery Park and one in the Natomas area. More are scheduled to be operational soon, Quist said.

But Quist added, there are still challenges his department faces – one of which is a workforce crisis.

“We need more people to do this important work. We have over 100 vacant clinical positions,” Quist said.

Quist said in order to provide a high level of care to the unhoused who experience mental health issues, they need more staff. Quist said they are actively doing hiring events, and they implemented a 16% increase to their compensation package to entice qualified people to apply to those positions.

CARE Court legislation signed into law

Some families, including Tanisha’s, are also in favor of new legislation that establishes the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment – or CARE – Court system in California. The CARE Court program would make it easier for families and first responders to force mentally ill Californians into psychiatric treatment through court-ordered care.

“They should allow the court order, so that mothers and sisters and daughters can go in there and say, ‘My mom is too sick to be out here on the street in this condition,'” Claudine said.

While there is some support for the CARE Courts, the program has received backlash from many human rights groups. They claim it goes against people’s freedom of choice and could lead to mentally ill people being stuck inside state hospitals.

Links to resources

Click here for more information from Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services about their Homeless Encampment And Response Team (HEART).

Click here for a list of the current and upcoming mental health walk-in sites in Sacramento County.

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