At the Delano Homeless Collaborative meeting May 9, a small group of Delano stakeholders and some key members from the Kern County Collaborative met to discuss several initiatives started by the group and working toward completion.
One subject that has made a lot of progress is the new Recovery Station in Delano, funded by the Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Department. A contract has been signed with Telecare Inc., to manage and operate this facility. Several locations have been discussed in Delano, but an official location has not yet been determined.
The collaborative is an effort initiated by Kern County District 4 Supervisor David Couch to bring much needed services to Delano. The Recovery Station is one such service. It will be a blessing for the Delano Police Department, and it will be a blessing for some of those in Delano who are in need of recovery after a drug, alcohol or mental health experience has placed these individuals in a publicly “compromised” position. Rather than take these folks down to Bakersfield and put them in jail for the night for public intoxication, the Recovery Station will allow individuals a chance to “sober-up” safely, receive necessities, then be evaluated for mental health and/or substance use services that could be the key first steps toward recovery.
“The Recovery Station is different from a sobriety station in that it integrates peer staffing (those with lived experience) and interventions designed to identify and link individuals with untreated or undiagnosed Mental Health and Substance Use conditions," according to Rhonda Barnhard, KERN BHRS special projects manager. "The primary difference between Sobering Stations and the Recovery Station model is on healing vs. sobering only,”
But it’s not just the individuals who are aided, said Delano Police Chief Robert Nevarez. This is a great help to his department.
“We should keep in mind that many homeless persons have an underlying substance abuse addiction that must be addressed first in order to make a real, sustained difference," Nevarez said. "This program targets precisely that issue. An additional benefit is that officers now have a facility in town to which they can take habitually intoxicated persons. This eliminates an extended drive to Bakersfield, which previously took officers out of service.”
Finding a location is the next step, which is being looked at right now. The facility will be about 2,500 square feet, will hold up to six beds and will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Average stay is between eight to 10 hours. And while the location is still to be determined, that fact that it will be in Delano is a credit to Couch, who in consultations with Bill Walker, the director from the Behavioral Health Department, wanted to make sure that the second recovery station in Kern County would be in the county's second largest city.
The first Recovery Station will be in Bakersfield and its anticipated opening is toward the end of the year.
“I’m thankful to BHRS that they heeded my call to bring service to Delano," Couch said. "I see my role as facilitating these kinds of projects in the cities and areas I represent.”
"I'm please this program is making its way to Delano," Delano Mayor Joe Aguirre said. "Soon it will become a resource for local law enforcement officers to utilize when the opportunity allows. The collaboration is also focused on assisting our homeless population as well for Delano."
The Delano Homeless Collaborative has been meeting monthly to discuss ways to improve homeless services in Delano and ways to get the services and experts that are available in Bakersfield to Delano to help solve Delano homeless issues. Also discussed at the May 9 meeting is a new hotel voucher program that can help homeless individuals in crisis or transition get hotel rooms for short-duration stays.
Jim Wheeler, executive director of Flood Ministries, briefed on the details of this new program. Finally, Stephen Pelz from the Kern County Housing Authority discussed how the availability of low-income housing can be used to help with the homeless problem too.
The next meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. June 13 at 612 Main St. in Delano.