Jefferson Center partners with RTD for mental health and homelessness outreach

New routes in extending social services explored as demand continues to grow

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/11/22

The Jefferson Center for Mental Health (JCMH) is partnering with RTD to provide a mental health professional on trains and at stations to help address people in need of care, people who are in crisis and people who are homeless with mental health needs.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Username
Password
Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2021-2022, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.


Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

Jefferson Center partners with RTD for mental health and homelessness outreach

New routes in extending social services explored as demand continues to grow

Posted

The Jefferson Center for Mental Health (JCMH) is partnering with RTD to provide a mental health professional on trains and at stations to help address people in need of care, people who are in crisis and people who are homeless with mental health needs.

According to JCMH Spokesperson Stephanie Schiemann, in this new and unique role, a Navigator will make contact on RTD trains and in stations, offering assistance in the form of resource referrals. The Navigator also will develop trauma-informed standards of care for RTD, while acting as a liaison between RTD and the community.  

“Jefferson Center participated in a competitive bidding process to house this important role, and we are honored that RTD has recognized the high quality of care that we can offer,” Schiemann said.

Steve Martingano, Deputy Chief, RTD Transit Police, said more than three years ago, RTD started a co-responder unit, where clinicians from Mental Health Center of Denver would accompany the District’s police officers on mental health related calls in the City and County of Denver. He said data captured from that program — what types of contacts and diagnoses they were making, and information about the individuals they were contacting — indicated up to 68% of the people they assisted were experiencing homelessness. 

“Our buses and trains take a lot of those individuals to their appointments and other services they receive through various outreach organizations,” he said. “So, we started looking at bringing someone on full-time.”

Martingano said because they operate in eight counties and the mental health counselors often didn’t have the full breadth of knowledge to effectively service homeless individuals RTD was having contacts with, they realized their riders would be better served by a full-time homelessness navigator. 

Homeless encampments along train tracks create a dangerous situation for homeless individuals as well as train operators and riders, Martingano said.

“When we had to go and break up an encampment — ask people to leave, we didn’t know where to send them,” he said. “We felt that if someone could work with us on that, it was better for everyone involved. So, we put in for and received the Hope Grant through the Federal Transportation Administration.”

From there, he said, RTD took the money and accepted bids from different organizations to help create the program. That’s where The Jefferson Center came in — it had the winning bid.

Taylor Clepper, Jefferson Center’s Director of Navigation and Housing Services, said Jefferson Center already was developing and growing its street outreach team, so winning the bid to implement RTD’s program was great timing.

“We’re doing a lot more in the way of unhoused outreach and homeless services in this region, so this felt like a really nice extension of the work we were already building internally,” she said. 

Alton Reynolds was hired to fill the new position. As the new RTD Navigator and Case Manager, Reynolds is on the front lines, armed with knowledge of available resources to help transit riders in need as well as those living in camps on or along RTD bus and train routes.

Clepper said Reynolds will work inside Jefferson County, but also will connect the dots for those transit related cases throughout the region.

“Alton is riding the rails, he’s going to the stations — he’s the one making contact with the unhoused individuals and making those resource connections in the community,” Clepper said.

All agree the new position will create quite a challenge. Luckily, Reynolds was able to hit the ground running.

With several years experience as an RTD driver, Reynolds already knew the routes and had a familiarity with the types of situations he would likely encounter while performing his new duties.

Right now, he’s meeting with community partners, making preliminary connections to be a more effective navigator when the program really kicks in. Aside from outreach for mental health and homelessness, he’ll also be spreading awareness of other assistance and benefits like discounted fares, available to some riders.

Reynolds also is collaborating with homeless navigators in various municipalities including Lakewood, to strengthen connection points in Jeffco and beyond, even riding along with the Lakewood Community Action Team to learn more about different ways of offering assistance. 

Reynolds said some folks he makes contact with are more receptive than others in taking advantage of resources. But he’s willing to make multiple contacts to build the trust that will eventually lead to people finding their way into permanent housing.

Clepper said many people experiencing homelessness or mental health needs have a level of distrust in the system that can make it necessary to re-engage after an initial contact, so patience is key.

According to Martingano, the grant will fund the program for one year. He said at just one month in, it’s too early to gauge the success of the program, but he’s hopeful that data will show it to be effective, allowing RTD to continue with the outreach.

And that, he said, benefits his officers as well, by allowing trained mental health clinicians or other professionals to assist where needed, taking some of the load off transit police.

Reynolds added that it’s about showing the community that RTD Police aren’t just interested in enforcing the law, but they’re also interested in getting people the appropriate services they need.

homelessness RTD light rail transportation

Comments

Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.