Saturday, May 9, 2015



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Rescue Mission sees increase in number of mentally ill

Friday, May 8, 2015 - 9:13 am

The Rescue Mission has been seeing an increase over the past year in the number of homeless clients who have mental illness.
According to Sharon Gerig, Life House coordinator at the mission, they have been seeing much higher numbers and they don’t know why. Gerig said the clients come both from right out of jail and off the street.
“About 70 percent of the men we deal with have some type of mental illness,” Gerig said.
It could be clinical depression, or bipolar disorder, or a combination of things. Their statistics, Gerig said, showed in April they had 60 men who were referred to mental illness service provider Park Center. Those men either had a diagnosis and needed more medication or mission staff saw something was clearly wrong and a diagnosis was needed.
Brent Stachler, Rescue Mission clinical director said, “I spend more time with them in the program, and there has definitely been an increase. It’s not like these guys are all repeaters.”
Gerig said every month over the past year to year and a half staff have seen 45-50 new men who have never been to the Rescue Mission before. Sometimes their numbers for “unique individuals” in the Life House, where transient men can stay up to 30 days while receiving free meals, clothing, hygience items and referrals, can be anywhere from 100 to 150 men.
“A lot of men are released from jail without medication,” Gerig said. “They have nowhere to live. They probably have no insurance or a family doctor that can refer them. They have no money and they have a mental illness. There are so many barriers there for them automatically.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday Park Center’s homeless team comes to the Rescue Mission, 301 W. Superior St., and the nearby Charis House, the women’s side of the Rescue Mission, 431 Fairmount Place. Parkview Health has been helping as well.
“We as a staff and a team are becoming more aware of people who have a mental illness,” said Stachler.
He said in the past if someone had a serious problem the staff would tell them they could not stay at the mission. Now staff will intervene and try to get the person the help they need. Staff use the Fort Wayne Police Department Crisis Intervention Team, which aims to get treatment for crime suspects with mental illness instead of taking them to jail, when necessary.
“We are doing the best we can to manage the problem,” Gerig said.
Gerig said with the popularity of bath salts and spice behavior can sometimes mimic those of someone who is psychotic. If staff sees a user frequently and they are familiar with the user’s behavior it can be a tip off that the person is high on something. Staff have had people who are convinced they are being attacked by a demon and try to rip their clothing off, thinking it’s the demon.
“It can be an added challenge,” Gerig said.
Although they do drug testing, there is no test for bath salts and a newer synthetic drug out of Florida called Flakka. Flakka has the same unpredictable and potentially lethal side-effects that Ecstasy and bath salts do.
The challenges of these already unstable individuals being transient is huge, Gerig said. It can take a month to get someone in for psychiatric evaluation and diagnosed and then receive the medication they need. If they are seriously mentally ill it can be a safety concern for those around them. The Rescue Mission staff has had to make hard decisions about if they can house an individual safely. The cost of medication is high, although the Wayne Township trustee’s office has been helping some people with vouchers for medication.
If clients make it through the program, by the time they are ready to transition out of the Rescue Mission they are probably using a place like Park Center, Stachler said. Park Center has a shelter plus a care program and staff try to make sure these individuals remain with that program. The Rescue Mission will try to help them find housing, but if they have a felony on their record or are sex offenders it can be difficult.
“We try and stay in touch with the guys; we have an aftercare program,” Gerig said. “But it is up to them if they want to stay in touch. Some people don’t want to.”

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