June Meeting Report – Is involuntary psychiatric treatment the solution to the intertwined crises of untreated mental illness, homelessness, and addiction?

By Nancie Silver —

The Palos Verdes Democrats met in person and on Zoom on Sunday, June 25.  Three speakers shared their perspective on the complicated intersection of homelessness, untreated mental illness and addiction, and the best ways to address these issues.

  • Alex V. Barnard, assistant professor of sociology at New York University. His research examines public policies and decision-making in public mental health care in France and the U.S.
  • Ronson Chu, Senior Project Manager for Homeless and Senior Services at the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG). He is responsible for coordinating the South Bay region’s homeless response.
  • Paul Stansbury, Board President of the South Bay Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Alex’s presentation was fact driven, and he very succinctly shared a lot of data gleaned from hundreds of interviews with professionals, policy makers, families, and conservatees. He talked about California’s long-term disinvestment in the mental health system and highlighted the complex issue of conservatorships in California. The comparison between the approaches to managing mental health taken in France versus the United States was revealing. The French investment in universal healthcare, public housing, more hospital beds and psychiatrists, and public resources is much higher than in the US, and their outcomes are much better. To conclude his talk, Alex offered six thoughtful principles for reform.   You can view Alex’s slides here.

 Ronson Chu shared information about SBCCOGs regional approach to addressing both acute and non-acute homelessness. To highlight the work of his agency, Ronson shared the five-year story of one woman’s journey from homelessness to being housed, and the importance of court intervention. He mentioned Redondo Beach’s Homeless Court and purchase of pallet shelter units, and the COGs recent sponsorship of Rancho Palos Verdes’ Homeless Plan.

Paul Stansbury shared his experiences working with NAMI for the last twenty years, and his personal experience with his son who suffers from mental illness. He recommends better private and public mental health services for individuals and families, better housing options, and a wide-range of services rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

If you missed our June 25 meeting and are interested in these topics, I urge you to watch the video.  Each speaker brought these issues to life in different ways, and the Q & A session was also very informative.


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