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Community Health Town Halls
In addition to the development of a local crisis response team, the City of Eureka is proud to present a series of Community Health Town Halls. These events are meant to establish a new platform where community members are invited to discuss mental health, substance use, homelessness and our community’s response to these issues in Eureka and Humboldt County. The town halls are an open forum environment with a panel of various professionals in the community. These quarterly sessions host a variety of targeted topics, beginning with Mental Health 101 and covering a broad range of areas such as homelessness, emergency mental health access, adult continuum care, children and juvenile care, how mental health programs interact with local government, developmental and intellectual disabilities, seniors and the physically disabled, and employee mental health in work environments.
All community members are invited to attend these town halls and participate in discussions regarding mental health and the challenges we face as a community in ensuring individuals have access to quality mental health, substance use, and housing services. All recorded information relating to each town hall will appear on this page as they occur, so community members and interested organizations can review the content at their leisure and continue to consider health and wellness within our community, joining the ongoing county-wide discussion on improving health outcomes for everyone who lives here.
If you would like to be notified about future Community Health events, either via email or mobile, please visit the NotifyMe! page to sign up for notifications.
Mental Health 101 was the first in the Community Health Town Hall Series, held on Saturday, March 4th 2023. Panelists included Lea Nagy of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness; Luke Brownfield, head of the Public Defender’s office; Dr. Mark Lamers, a DHHS Senior Program Manager; and Commander Leonard LaFrance, who oversees the Community Safety Engagement Team (aka CSET) for the City of Eureka Police Department.
During the nearly three-hour discussion, community members came forward with various concerns, questions, suggestions, and observations regarding mental health within our community, giving the panelists an opportunity to relate, educate, contemplate and in some instances create new connections. Between community members and panelists, a wide range of challenges were discussed concerning mental health care in Eureka and the wider Humboldt community.
Panelist Lea Nagy frequently gave evocative testimony on the services offered by NAMI, which includes support for families of those suffering mental health crises, as well as many other services that community members hadn't been aware of such as support groups and workshops. She spoke with personal knowledge about the effect mental health crises can have on family members as well as those experiencing psychological trauma, and discussed the various forms of immediate and long-term care and support that is available within our community for individuals who are suffering mental health issues as well as those closest to them.
Dr. Mark Lamers of DHHS made an eloquent case for increasing the number of case management positions offered by the county in response to numerous personal testimonials from community members about poorly handled crisis events or ongoing care, discussing the extremely skewed ratio of case workers to cases in our county. He was further able to illuminate various details on mental health conditions and practices that gave a compellingly complex picture of mental health in our community. His nuanced descriptions changed the face of both individuals with mental health conditions and the system in place to support them, depicting a highly relatable and regrettably complex problem that is in need of creative and collective solutions.
Commander Leonard LaFrance of Eureka PD was able to illuminate the procedures surrounding 5150's--or psychiatric holds--and educate on the various laws and training programs for officers surrounding mental health from the point when law enforcement becomes involved in individual cases. Public Defender Luke Brownfield of the Humboldt County Public Defenders Office was also able to offer additional information surrounding the role mental health and mental health crises play in the judicial handling of criminal cases, describing the delicate balance between protecting an individual’s rights and ensuring they do not pose a danger to themselves or others in the event of mental health related incidents or during ongoing mental health issues.
Community members came forward one at a time to share their experiences, ask questions, and make public, on the record commentary regarding how mental health is treated within our community. While each individual story was unique in itself, the underlying tone was one of grief and compassion, seeking answers to tragedies that have impacted their loved ones or were personally experienced by themselves. Too often there have been preventable deaths within our community due to under- or poorly addressed mental health crises, and this awareness permeated the room during this first Community Health Town Hall. Panelists were prompted to consistently reiterate healthcare resources and illustrate to the best of their ability various ways citizens could seek and get treatment or support. Both panelists and community members showed a strong sense of responsibility for resolving the issues our community faces in regards to mental health care, and all parties remained open and willing to discuss any topic brought forth regardless of how difficult they can sometimes be.
During this first Community Town Hall, community members and trained professionals came to the table to discuss the hurdles our community faces in mental health care, armed with emotional openness and a readiness to tackle difficult subjects. Many different resources and ideas were distributed between community members and healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and public servants; the exchange of which will bear fruit long after the forum ended.
On Sunday, June 4th, from 1:00-4:30pm, the City of Eureka Mayor’s Initiative, in collaboration with Humboldt County Behavioral Health, will be hosting the second in a quarterly series of Community Health Town Halls. The topic this quarter is Dynamics of the Unhoused. The event will consist of a panel of professionals from different fields which interface with people experiencing homelessness. Each panelist will give a brief presentation on their background and program, and then the remainder of the event will be opened up for public questions.
The Community Health Town Halls are aimed at providing a dedicated forum to have respectful and safe dialogues around critical health and social issues in the community. Through education, discussion, and developing creative and collaborative solutions, the City hopes to bring our community together in supporting those experiencing challenges related to mental health, substance use, or homelessness. These are truly community-based problems which require community solutions, and we hope that you bring your questions, suggestions, and solutions to share with your fellow community members.
The Town Hall will be hosted in City of Eureka Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of Eureka City Hall, 531 K Street, Eureka. Doors will open at 1:00pm and there will be food and water free to attendees. The Town Hall will start at 1:30pm. The event will also be live streamed for viewing only on the City’s website at eurekaca.gov/meetings, as well as through Zoom and the City’s official Facebook Live account. To ask your question(s), you can attend in person or email your question ahead of time to email@example.com. Notecards will be available for anonymous question submission for in-person attendees who do not want to ask their question in front of an audience.
Present at this event, Humboldt’s own chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will be tabling and accepting monetary donations. NAMI provides education and support to individuals experiencing mental health and substance use issues, as well as their family members. For more information on what your support of NAMI means, you can view their website at https://www.nami-humboldt.org/.