Discussions on Addressing Mental Health and Systemic Racism in Davis in Temporary Joint Subcommittee Meeting

By Emily Dill 

DAVIS —Mental health and systemic racism become highly contentious topics at the temporary joint subcommittee meeting on Wednesday evening.

Discussions of how to define and ensure the community’s public safety sparked debates about the quantity of possible outreach programs amongst the Police Accountability Commission (PAC), Human Relations Commission (HRC) and Social Services Commission (SSC). Usage of the police department compared to social workers in crisis situations in Davis was also discussed in the meeting. 

The “triwizard task-force,” as they jokingly called themselves, worked to find an outreach plan that successfully covered issues of mental health, drug abuse and homelessness in Davis. 

Judith MacBrine, a member of the Police Accountability Commission (PAC), expressed her commitment to addressing mental health concerns when presenting her outreach report. The goal of her plan is to get involved with an individual before a “crisis” occurs, because police involvement usually begins far before this stage is reached. 

MacBrine said the focus should be on using the outreach for “community learning,” raising awareness for available resources and increasing communication with local
mental health professionals. 

MacBrine emphasized the need to destigmatize talking about mental health, stating, “There is a stigma that the community has toward people with mental illness, a lot of people think that if you have a mental illness you are going to be violent – that’s not the case.”

Support for the joint subcommittee’s work and increased focus on mental health was evident during public comment. Commenters were thankful to see the committee acknowledging the stigma surrounding mental health and appreciated their acknowledgement of the issue’s intersection with systemic racism. Commenters also requested that the tools discussed in the meeting be made available to the public – including a list of available mental health resources in Davis and Yolo County.

Commenter Morgan Poindexter said systemic racism is in “every single issue you could think of,” and provided the subcommittee with some statistics regarding mental health, substance abuse and incarceration rates in Yolo County. 

Poindexter stated that if you examine the homeless count in Davis from 2019, “35 percent of those homeless people were suffering from a serious mental illness, and 32 percent had substance use disorders.” She went on to highlight that “⅕ of people who are booked into Yolo County jails have mental health problems” and ⅓ of those booked have substance use disorders. 

PAC member Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald acknowledged there can be a crossover between systemic racism and mental health, but she still had concerns about them being “watered down” if one larger “umbrella” outreach was done. 

PAC chair Dillan Horton discussed the main focus of the group, saying that the purpose should not be to find the optimal model of public safety. Horton stated that in their directive from City Council, finding an optimal model is “sort of a secondary, after the comma – the first part of the sentence is to find a model of safety that isn’t fundamentally racist.”

The topic of the outreach was centered around whether multiple outreach programs would be an unreasonable amount of work, and if instead, just one would capture the breadth of the research desired. MacBrine was passionate about starting the lengthy, multi-pronged mental health outreach, stating, “I’m ready to jump in and dig in.” 

The committee brought up Yolo People Power’s Local Voices Project, that is gathering testimonials from those who have come in recent contact with the police department – allowing them to share their experiences. 

MacBrine also mentioned that she spoke to the police chief, who stated that the Davis Police Department will be sending out 50 surveys a month to those who have received tickets, asking them various questions to help illustrate their encounters with officers. 

Sheila Allen, chair of the HRC, shared a recent conversation she had with a social worker in which they discussed the working relationship with law enforcement, “Clearly there are some interventions that are more police focused and some that are clearly social work and mental health focused.”

In regard to a team approach in these crises, Allen stated that “many of the calls that come through are people that are known either to the police, or to mental health workers, or to both.” The HRC is working to compile all available city and county resources, figure out what is still needed and find more effective ways to connect individuals to these resources.

Matthew Wise, a member of the SSC, emphasized a teamwork concept when presenting their research findings. Wise suggested that there is a “value of embedding mental health professionals in the [police] department.” He elaborated that “when you have two different professions working in the same environment they tend to rub off on each other” and that “public health professionals are generally more comfortable having a sworn officer with them in unpredictable situations.”

In contrary to Wise’s statements, Mental Health First, a program in Sacramento has created a new model to eliminate the need for police responders by “providing mobile peer support, de-escalation assistance, and non-punitive and life-affirming interventions, therefore decriminalizing emotional and psychological crises and decreasing the stigma around mental health, substance use, and domestic violence, which also addressing their root causes: white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism.”

Jordan Varney contributed to the reporting.


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12 Comments

  1. Alan Miller

    Mental Health First, a program in Sacramento has created a new model to eliminate the need for police responders by “providing mobile peer support, de-escalation assistance, and non-punitive and life-affirming interventions, therefore decriminalizing emotional and psychological crises and decreasing the stigma around mental health, substance use, and domestic violence, which also addressing their root causes: white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism.

    I think they got this figured out, let’s cancel the police and give all the money to “Mental Health First”.  Oh, and by the way, when you click on the link for “Mental Health First”, it takes you to the “Anti Police Terror Project”.

  2. Alan Miller

    In contrary to Wise’s statements

    A single citizen commissions was full of contrary, and couldn’t even figure out how we should implement parking downtown and then individual members sabotaged the committee’s findings, and the City implemented a “solution” the exacerbated that originally-stated problem.

    I can’t wait to see the clusterf@ck that slowly emerges over the next few years from the findings of the triple-commission calling itself the Tri-Wizard Task Force.

    It’s almost as if the City having citizen commissions is a way for the City to make it look like they are doing something, and letting the anger and energy dissipate, in order to avoid having to actually do something themselves, and maybe pass the problems on to the next council.

    The change, it had to come
    We knew it all along
    We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
    And the world looks just the same
    And history ain’t changed
    ‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

  3. Alan Miller

    a member of the Police Accountability Commission (PAC), expressed her commitment to addressing mental health concerns when presenting her outreach report.

    That’s the only creds given to a person who is making recommendations . . . I assume they have creds beyond ‘being a member’ ?  Or is that all that is required ?

  4. Alan Miller

    Any and all of this . . . it all sounds like a massive increase in overall budget.  Is cost brought into any of this . . . or is the entire budget based on ‘defund the police’ ?

  5. Alan Miller

    What about issues of:

    • Most drug addicts don’t want to stop using.
    • Many if not most homeless don’t accept the help offered ?
    • The state offers woefully little resources to deal with the severely mentally ill.

    The solutions offered seem to believe you can help those who don’t want help, and that massive funding will magically appear.

    1. David Greenwald

      I really really agree with you on the third point.  That should inform your first two points however – drug addicts, in my experience are self-medicating and by the time people experience homelessness, they have traveled far down that path.  Still I don’t think most who work with the homeless would agree with point two, rather they believe with the resources and dedication they can slowly start to turn people around.

      1. Alan Miller

        Most addicts die of their disease, that’s just the way it is.  All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, are not going to change that reality.

        Also, let me clarify point one. A lot of addicts do ‘want’ to get clean; the problem is their need for a high screams like a siren over the top of that ‘want’ until it is drowned out . . . over and over and over again.

        1. Eric Gelber

          • Most drug addicts don’t want to stop using.

          What is the basis for this assertion?

          • Many if not most homeless don’t accept the help offered.

          This is because help (e.g., housing, temporary shelter) is often conditioned on stopping alcohol or drug use, or participation in counseling and other programs. As you note in the next item, needed voluntary services are woefully insufficient.

          • The state offers woefully little resources to deal with the severely mentally ill.

          True that.

          •  Most addicts die of their disease,

          While substance abuse is a leading cause of death, I don’t believe there are good data kept on recovery or mortality rates among substance abusers. Also, this is tied to your preceding point.

        2. Alan Miller

          • Most drug addicts don’t want to stop using.

          What is the basis for this assertion?

          >If they wanted to stop using more than they wanted to use, they would seek help.

          • Many if not most homeless don’t accept the help offered.

          This is because help (e.g., housing, temporary shelter) is often conditioned on stopping alcohol or drug use, or participation in counseling and other programs. As you note in the next item, needed voluntary services are woefully insufficient.

          > That’s a circular argument and goes against the reality of addiction; I understand most people cannot understand that reality because it is, indeed, nonsensical.

  6. Bill Marshall

    There is also “systemic classism”… may or may not align with ‘race’… the folk who abuse drugs (inc. alcohol), other MH issues, and end up ‘homeless’ are “Untouchables” in the American ‘caste system’… and yes, it is systemic…

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