REACH Mental Health Outreach Program Launches in the U District

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New Program to Help U District Residents Suffering from Mental Illness
The U District Business Improvement Area (UDBIA) and U District Partnership (UDP) are excited to announce the launch of our new contract with Evergreen Treatment Services to bring their successful REACH mental health outreach program to the U District. Starting on March 18th, REACH will provide a full time Outreach Care Coordinator dedicated to building relationships with members of our community suffering from various forms of mental illness and connecting them with the care and services they so desperately need. Bringing this program to our neighborhood is a critical and important step towards addressing the regional mental health crisis.

"The REACH program will provide a critical wrap around community service that provides much more than a Band-Aid to our ongoing mental health crisis.  It is a proven, effective program that provides Seattleites who are struggling with long-term solutions and pathways to medical care, housing and job opportunities." - Maureen Ewing, Executive Director of the University Heights Center and UDBIA Chairperson

Current Conditions
The U District has a significant population of people struggling with pronounced mental illness. While this has always been true in this district, and indeed in almost any urban neighborhood, there is a growing awareness of the issue and perhaps a growing population in need of services. Whether driven by increasing drug use coupled with mental illness, the continued lack of appropriate services, the long term effects of the federal and local closure of institutions that formerly cared for these individuals, current local police enforcement and prosecutorial policies or the increase in homelessness placing more people visibly in need in front of all of the rest of us, we have seen a growing problem.

Undiagnosed and untreated mental illness can wreak havoc on an individual’s health and wellbeing. In addition to the personal hardships inherent in their illness, these individuals often are experiencing other difficulties and setbacks. People with mental illness more often find securing and keeping a job more difficult. They suffer from higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, a common way to self-medicate and cope with their illness. They also are much more likely than the average citizen to be the victim of violent crimes. All of these are potential factors which can contribute to the higher rates of experiencing homelessness in this population. In return, the incredibly distressing nature being unhoused can exacerbate their underlying conditions. Finally, it is not uncommon to see people experiencing a mental health crisis accidentally put themselves or others at higher risk of harm. Even if this doesn’t immediately lead to injury, it can still create a sense of danger or threatening environment that decreases our community’s overall wellbeing. To begin addressing the complex issues around each personal mental health story requires an approach that is knowledgeable and considerate of these all too commonly interconnected issues.

The impacts of mental illness go beyond even the suffering of individual community members. This crisis affects the very fabric of our entire community. It tears at us to watch our neighbors slowly fall to pieces over time in front of us – day after day – and feel powerless to reach out and to provide that person with relief and care. As a caring, compassionate community that believes our social contract requires us to provide support for individuals whose challenges exceed their ability to fend for themselves, we must act.

“I want to thank our community for the care and compassion they are showing by funding this outreach effort. By supporting our most vulnerable members, we show our greatest strength.” – Mark Crawford, Interim Executive Director U District Partnership

The REACH Program
The REACH Program is an established service of Evergreen Treatment Services. REACH works with individuals experiencing behavioral health conditions to help them achieve stability and improve quality of life. Through outreach, engagement, and ongoing relationships, REACH focuses on reducing harm and supporting the healing of each of their clients. REACH bridges gaps and helps individuals access essential resources such as housing, health care, entitlements and treatment.

“We are very excited to be able to concentrate on [the U District] to engage with the folks who fly under the radar and are unseen/or seen to build impactful relationships to move people forward. We do our work by forming relationships with clients, communities, law enforcement, and service providers. These relationships help us make the connections that are the key to our client's success.” – Brenda Fraser, REACH Program Outreach Supervisor

The REACH program has a proven track record of success in another similar urban Seattle neighborhood – Ballard. In 2018, the Ballard Alliance contracted with Evergreen Treatment Services to provide a REACH Outreach Case Manager in their neighborhood. Over a period of nine months this position was able to connect over 50 people with mental healthcare services, 21 people with employment and 104 clients off of the streets and into shelter. These impressive outcomes in Ballard give us confidence that this program will work well for our vulnerable U District neighbors.

"Now in its second year, the Ballard Alliance's homelessness and mental health outreach program has been a strong success. We have found that localized geographic outreach allows for more frequent contact with individuals facing homelessness and allows for more work and coordination with our street-front businesses." - Mike Stewart, Ballard Alliance Executive Director

The Outreach Care Coordinator
The cornerstone of the REACH Program is the Outreach Care Coordinator. This dedicated mental health professional assists people in the midst of their struggles by meeting them where they are at and focuses on building relationships leading towards personal success. The position also works collaboratively with local organizations, service providers, and business to create a strong network of care.

The U District Partnership will be partnering closely with the REACH Outreach Care Coordinator as our organization believes that their work matches our mission to serve all who work in, live in, and visit the U District by fostering and sustaining a vibrant, diverse, and healthy neighborhood for the common good. To support this collaboration, the UDP will be hosting the REACH position in our centrally located U District office. We look forward to working together with the REACH Outreach Care Coordinator and expect our Ambassador Program will particularly benefit from this close proximity of work. Our Ambassador Team functions as our eyes and ears on the street throughout the U District. They welcome visitors to our neighborhood, provide directions, and watch for potential issues. When engaging with people in need of services, they are equipped to connect them to the appropriate local service providers, an effort that will be greatly improved by the added services of the REACH Outreach Care Coordinator. The opportunity to refer people directly to them will drastically decrease the need for people in the U District suffering from mental illness to travel outside of our neighborhood to meet with mental health professional, a common barrier to service. The Ambassadors will also be able to provide some context to REACH about the behaviors that individuals have exhibited in the past and, if a client seems to disappear, they can quickly alert the REACH Coordinator. Conversely, as the REACH Coordinator gets to know the members of the U District community, they can provide a very important point of contact to improve relationships and understanding. This important relationship building can help our staff to avoid unnecessary conflicts while trying to provide our other services to the neighborhood.

REACH doesn’t just treat mental illness as an isolated issue; they are trained to be able to help their clients address other difficult experiences they may be suffering from, such as homelessness, drug addiction, or unemployment. To accomplish this, the REACH program works to build partnerships with local service providers to connect them with necessary services that are nearby and easy to reach. They also have close contact with local hospitals and clinics to support immediate and ongoing physical health needs. This network of service is part of how REACH creates a strong support system for each client which helps to prevent them from falling through the cracks in the system, something that unfortunately occurs all too frequently. Each REACH Outreach Care Coordinator also has access to Evergreen Treatment Services’ own network of care professionals such as case managers, respite care coordinators, veteran specialists, and housing care coordinators to provide wrap around care.

Another tangible benefit of bringing the REACH program to the U District is their commitment to partnering with local businesses by keeping them informed and providing them with strategies to navigate mental illness related situations. We are lucky to have many extremely compassionate and caring business owners and employees in our neighborhood. These local businesses frequently interact with people experiencing visible mental health crises, often within their establishments. Having neither the training nor being situated to provide the complex dedicated care someone may need can make it difficult to figure out the right way to help. With a REACH professional actively keeping our community informed, our businesses can better understand the resources available for and the steps being taken to assist people in our neighborhood struggling with mental illness. Additionally, if a mental health crisis occurs while the REACH Outreach Care Coordinator is on duty, they may be able to help right away. By traveling to the business and engaging the individual involved, they can take the load off of employees and potentially help them to avoid dangerous physical or legal situations.

“I am extremely excited to begin this partnership with the REACH program.  I see our REACH Outreach Care Coordinator as a guide to a better life for people in need of help. I am not alone in the excitement of this partnership, the entire UDP board and the community at large stands firmly behind this endeavor. The future is bright!” – Don Schulze, Owner of Shultzy’s Bar & Grill and Chairperson of the UDP Clean & Safe Committee

Meet David
REACH has hired David Delgado to support the U District as our local REACH Outreach Care Coordinator. David experienced homelessness during his later teen and young adult years. David was able to build financial and housing stability and he has been dedicated to helping others do the same, ever since.  David has over 20 years of experience helping unhoused folks in Seattle. He has held many roles in human services during these years, including residential counselor, shelter staff, community organizer, case manager, group facilitator, crisis counselor, and harm reduction specialist. While earning his Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington, he worked as a counselor at a local community mental health clinic and a youth recovery inpatient program.

David's extensive experience has been focused on working with people facing homelessness, addiction, mental illness, oppression, grief and loss, complicated life transitions, and healing from past abuse. When working one-on-one with a person, he believes that building an alliance and working collaboratively is the common denominator to any successful therapeutic approach. His therapeutic style is person-centered, empowerment oriented, strengths-based, humanistic and trans-personal. He also uses motivational, narrative, and cognitive-behavioral counseling techniques depending on the situation of the person that he is working with.  David is comfortable reaching out to highly vulnerable people, and he is looking forward to serving those very populations in the U District.

David will begin working with us on March 18th, and we at the U District Partnership are excited for the opportunity to support him and REACH as this new program launches. More information will be shared soon on how you can contact him and partner with us on this life-changing work to help those in need in the U District.

Thanks
When the leadership of the U District Business Improvement Area and the U District Partnership identified a serious gap in the care available to our neighbors suffering from mental illness, we knew we must act. Since then, board members and staff have worked diligently to raise both awareness and funding to address this critical issue.

This program is only possible thanks to the initial and ongoing work of several organizations and groups which have provided significant contributions of their own funds to launch the REACH Program in the U District. In particular, we would like to thank the University Rotary, Evergreen Treatment Services, and the City of Seattle for joining with us to make this work a reality. A special thanks is due to Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson for leading the charge to guarantee an allocation in the City’s budget for mental health outreach funds for our neighborhood. With all of us working together, we can continue to provide services and programs which further improve the lives and wellbeing of our community.

“I am so happy to have found resources for a dedicated mental health counselor reaching out to our homeless neighbors in the U District.  I am very proud of the work this community is doing to positively and proactively support our neighbors in need.” –  Rob Johnson, Seattle District Four City Councilmember

Links:

REACH

Evergreen Treatment Services

U District Partnership

U District Business Improvement Area

University Rotary

Councilmember Johnson’s Office

Ballard Alliance