NewsKern's Homeless Crisis


KBHRS sees progress with street psychiatry, hopes to expand ROEM team

Posted at 10:16 PM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 12:15:24-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Back in July, we introduced you to a new program from Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services looking to take mental health services to the streets. On Tuesday morning, KBHRS will report to the Kern County Board of Supervisors and propose expanding the program.

The ROEM Team plays a significant role in helping our homeless population struggling with mental health issues. While the program is fairly new, the team says they’ve already seen progress and success, so much so, that they’re looking to expand.

“What the ROEM team has really been able to do, is because when they’re with a client, they’re out there every day, they’re connecting with them every day,” said Stacy Kuwahara, KBHRS Director.

Kuwahara says the Regional Outreach and Engagement Model (ROEM) has been making strides to assist chronically homeless individuals with mental health struggles. She said that in the last eight months, they’ve seen a number of individuals respond to the team in a positive manner and continue to seek treatment.

“We had one woman,” Kuwahara said. “She did so well, that we actually got her placed in permanent supportive housing. She’s no longer homeless.”

While they’ve seen successes, not all of their clients are quite as positive. However, that’s why this model is so important. Even when the team comes across an individual struggling with chronic homelessness who repeatedly ends up either arrested or in the hospital, the team is able to provide needed monitoring to determine whether that person meets the requirements for involuntary treatment. I

The program began in February and originally started with one team of ten members focused on bringing mental health services and evaluations to clients within the Downtown Bakersfield and Oildale areas. In July — they were only able to handle around 25 clients on their caseload. But after seeing the benefits of being out in the field with these individuals on a daily basis, Kuwahara says they’re ready to build the program.

“We are applying for additional funding through the Mental Health Services act, which will allow us to increase the time we have a psychiatrist out working with the team on the streets, and will also allow us to purchase two mobile units.”

KBHRS is applying for $5.3million in funding through the state’s Mental Health Services grant to fund the expansion of the ROEM program. They’re also applying for $4.3 million from the county to fund the addition of 4 co-response teams within the Bakersfield Police Department and 4 within the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, made up of case managers and officers or deputies.

“They will be responding to the crisis calls that come in but also have the capacity to do some of this homeless outreach also,” Kuwahara said.

Kuwahara says a big part of the program’s success is thanks to partnerships with local law enforcement as well as their many other community partners. While the program is seeing progress, she says there’s still a long way to go to help end the cycle of chronic homelessness.

“What I love about what’s happening right now is this movement to leave our offices and go find them where they’re at, and engaging them and get them to a point where they’re willing to take our help in any way we offer.”