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Report: Indio police face challenges ‘responding to homeless individuals with mental health concerns’

The Indio Police Department has made strides over the years with responding to calls about homeless individuals throughout the community and directing them toward resources, however, challenges persist, according to a recently released report by the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The report analyzes gaps in the Community Outreach Resource Program (CORP) as part of the “Community-Based Transitional Housing Program” grant.

The Indio Police Department is among several stakeholders in the community that make up CORP, including officers assigned to the Quality of Life team.

QOL officers are typically paired together when responding to calls and are "not trained to respond to certain mental health situations," according to the report. "Absent the mental health clinician, officers on the quality of life team struggled with responding to homeless individuals with mental health concerns and linking them to appropriate services."

Currently, IPD employs one mental health clinician. However, "there are clinicians throughout the county that are coming here for the experience and training by the clinician that works with us," said Benjamin Guitron, Public Information Officer for the Indio Police Department.

The report also noted that "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) restrictions prevent officers from providing the best response, because the officers are not always allowed to know information regarding the mental health status of an individual they may be interacting with."

Despite challenges identified in the report to housing certain homeless individuals, researchers found that "there is strong evidence that Housing First programs that focus on offering (but not requiring) services can reduce homelessness."

Background on CORP
Given these long-standing concerns about homelessness, the CORP program began in
2015 to address issues of chronic homelessness. The program took and continues to take a two pronged approach to homelessness. The first prong involved the assignment of two Indio Police
Department (IPD) officers to work on homelessness and quality of life issues full-time (now
three officers, using funding from this grant). The grant also provided funding for a mental
health clinician to work directly with the QOL officers. The clinician began working with the
team in 2019, but has since left due to a new position. At the time of this report, IPD was
working with the county to bring on a new clinician. We describe the work of these quality of
life (QOL) officers more in our IPD results section.

ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

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Jennifer Franco

Jennifer Franco is the weekend anchor/weekday reporter for KESQ News Channel 3


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