Berkeley Mental Health Commission discusses variety of topics at monthly meeting

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On Thursday, the Berkeley Mental Health Commission held its monthly meeting at the city’s Customer Service Center.

Discussion was held on a variety of topics, such as the commission’s work plan, subcommittees, data collection techniques and an examination of how taxpayer dollars are being spent on mental health-related activities. This meeting was also the last for Karen Klatt, who has been the secretary of the commission since 2015.

“I’m blown away with how much energy, compassion and commitment (the commission has),” Klatt said during the meeting. “It’s just been a really nice part of my job and an honor to work with you all.”

The commission then shifted its focus to discussion of its 2019/2020 Work Plan. According to commission chair boona cheema, the work plan was rewritten several times in order to make clear the different tasks the Mental Health Commission and the city’s Mental Health Division will be responsible for.

The motion to accept the work plan was passed unanimously.

“Our hope is once we have this information we can actually start studying this information and developing recommendations and reports,” cheema said during the meeting.

cheema then directed the commission toward a review of various subcommittees. She said the Site Visit Subcommittee had received detailed feedback, adding that those who come in during times of crisis receive “very good” services.

Next, cheema discussed the feedback the commission had received on its housing programs. She added that she believes the program has not evolved to fit the needs of the community, that “it still gets very messy” and that the program would benefit from those who are a part of the program participating in the operation of the program.

“(The Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets’) model (of mental health response) has been proven to work, and they’ve had 30 years to build a support system,” said commissioner Paul Kealoha-Blake during the meeting. “I’m really hoping that we can convince the city of Berkeley to look at that model.”

Later, a review of the Accountability Subcommittee’s demographics data collection began. It was found that about one-third of the population falls under the “other” race or ethnicity category, meaning respondents selected multiple races or ethnicities when filling out surveys. Commissioner Margaret Fine expressed concern over this issue, stating that unavailable data has been linked to public health problems, such as HIV and hepatitis C. The meeting ended with a short discussion of health care costs in the Bay Area, which will be continued at a later meeting.

The Mental Health Commission’s next meeting will be held Sept. 26. The commission is looking to invite people who work in crisis response programs and members of the Youth Engagement Advocacy Housing, or YEAH!, program.

Contact Suryan Bhatia at [email protected].

A previous version of this article may have implied that Paul Kealoha-Blake said, ”(Oakland’s) model (of mental health response) has been proven to work, and they’ve had 30 years to build a support system.” In fact, he said the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets’ “model (of mental health response) has been proven to work, and they’ve had 30 years to build a support system.”