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Sacramento Police mobilizing special unit to tackle homeless, mental health crises

Mental health related calls for service in Sacramento have increased from about 10,000 in 2016 to close to 12,500 calls in 2019.

SACRAMENTO, California — There's a homeless crisis in California. That should not be a surprise to anyone. There are at least 151,000 people experiencing homelessness in the state, and about 5,500 in Sacramento alone.

There are so many reasons why people end up homeless — perhaps they lost a job, or the rent just became too expensive on a fixed income. Regardless, Sacramento’s spiraling homeless issue has law enforcement mobilizing a special police unit in response.

Mental health related calls for service in Sacramento have increased from about 10,000 in 2016 to close to 12,500 calls in 2019. This unit's job is to focus on those calls, which are often where the issue of homelessness and mental health challenges collide.

"It's pretty innovative," said Officer Dan Bean with the SPD Mental Health Unit. "On a day to day, we're kind of writing the rule book for what we do around here. We don't really have any kind of guidebook on what our duties entail.

"So, sometimes I'm picking somebody up and taking them to the pharmacy and helping them get their meds and standing in line with them, and just making sure that they have somebody there to support them."

Christine McDaniel has watched in the past year as Sacramento Police officers struggled to interact with homeless residents experiencing mental health crises. One of those people was her son, Eric, who was helped by the mental health unit.

McDaniel said the kind of personalized approach the unit brings to the community means a lot to her family. She said the regular check-ins from the mental health unit help build trust 

"Now that my son has people that he's trusting, he's flourishing," McDaniel said.

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