Garden Grove

Helping homeless to Be Well

BE WELL crisis response team van (Orange County Tribune photo).

By Lauren DeMaria

If you’re homeless or just out of hope, there’s a new service on the street that can bring the solutions to you, whether or not you have been seeking them out.

Anthony Delgado, director of Be Well Mobile Response Services, says one of the most touching experiences he has had with the mobile crisis response team was when they helped a homeless woman that was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and was living out of a van, to find other housing options.

“She kept saying how sincere we were, we didn’t come with an agenda, all of it was about how do we help you,” said Delgado.

The cities of Garden Grove and Huntington Beach have implemented a mobile mental health service that will take pressure off the police, as they respond to thousands of mental health- related calls a year.

“We are not a homeless outreach team, we are a crisis response team,” said Delgado. “So, we respond to any crisis whether you’re housed or unhoused.”

The Be Well OC Mobile Response Team is an 18-month pilot program that went live in Garden Grove on Oct. 4. It has since responded to a total of 153 calls for service related to a variety of non-violent situations, said Senior Program Specialist Nate Robbins.

“One of the key components of the Be Well OC in Garden Grove is the fact that it is evidenced- based and data-driven,” said Assistant City Manager Lisa Kim during the Sept. 29 city council meeting.

Data is still being collected at the dispatch level, according to Delgado.

Garden Grove and Huntington Beach are the leading cities in Orange County to partner with the mobile response team, which has provided many mental health and substance abuse services for homeless individuals and the entire Garden Grove community. These services are funded by the city.

“One moment we are next to a dumpster because of a crisis and the next minute we’re in a multi- million-dollar home with a distraught family,” Delgado said.

The main goal of the van is to divert calls away from police officers to bring better outcomes for those in need of treatment. However, Delgado said sometimes they must call the police for backup to ensure everyone’s safety.

“It will not only improve the outcomes for those in need, but it will also support law enforcement so we can focus on calls where we are needed more urgently,” said Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRe.

The team is composed of two licensed crisis counselors who are called to a variety of non- emergency situations, where they are trained to de-escalate situations related to mental health, or transport those who need additional help to one of Be Well’s wellness facilities.

For example, “If someone wants to sober up and possibly get into rehab, we can just take them straight there,” said Sgt. Royce Wimmer from the Garden Grove Police Department’s Special Resource team.

One of the wellness facilities is a three-story building with live-in capabilities in Orange.

“They would have a 24-hour bed with resources such as water, coffee, food, shower, and after that, we would connect them and outsource them with other resources, you know potential housing, rehabs, substance abuse help, all of that,” said Brianna Frazier with Be Well OC.

The cities of Anaheim, Irvine, and Newport Beach are all at various stages of putting the Be Well program together, said Delgado.

“The program itself really focuses on mental health and then it branches out from there,” said Wimmer. “Things will grow out of the program, too, that we haven’t even noticed.”


2 replies »

  1. When people talk about definding the police, programs like this one are what they have in mind. Instead of police dealing with people in need, you support them with social workers who are trained to deal with, say, homeless, as in this case.

    It’s a terrific idea, & here’s hoping that the pilot programs are successful.

  2. We need ten of these. Not just for the homeless. But for taxpayers going crazy.

    These don’t want home.ness madness people invading our neighborhoods and harming our harmony. No doubt, why government put them out in our streets.

    To harm every day Americans and distract us from all we see being shoved in to harm us more later. Like trillions for stupid things. Unconstitutional these, that. The enemy within.

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