REACH Teams Provide Alternative Response to Calls for Service for People Experiencing Homelessness

Long Beach, CA – In a press conference earlier today, the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department) provided updates regarding two REACH outreach teams that were created in July of last year as an alternative response to certain calls for service related to people experiencing homelessness. These specialized teams focus on increasing access to mental and physical health services as well as housing and case management resources while reducing impacts on the emergency response system and addressing the root cause of homelessness.

“Long Beach is expanding our compassionate and accessible approach to improving the health of people experiencing homelessness in the city,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “The REACH model is improving the quality of life for people experiencing homelessness by connecting people to care, treatment, and housing.”

City leaders announced that, in the past year, the Health Department’s Homeless Services Bureau outreach teams responded to 567 requests for outreach and engaged with more than 1,800 people. Of those, 87 people with significant mental health and physical health care needs were enrolled in ongoing services through REACH. Those enrolled in ongoing REACH follow-up services tend to have been underserved by traditional care systems and have complex care needs along with histories of trauma.

The City today also revealed two new vehicles that will be used for outreach. One of them for general outreach and one specialized for the REACH teams to use when responding to calls for service. The outreach van has been branded with City colors and logos to increase awareness and visibility of the resource in the community. The REACH van, which is the newest of the two vehicles, will also receive the same treatment. The branded vehicles will help build trust and authority with those receiving services.

The two teams, each comprised of a public health nurse, a mental health clinician, and two outreach workers, currently serve as alternative response models focused on mental and physical health, with the goal of increasing access to services for people experiencing homelessness while working to reduce the number of calls for emergency response for mental and physical health-related situations. In total, the Health Department employs 16 outreach workers, including REACH team members, supervisory staff, outreach staff, and a library outreach worker, with another eight positions in various stages of the hiring process.

The Long Beach Emergency Communications Center currently assesses all incoming calls to 911 and non-emergency lines to determine the most appropriate response. For dispatchers, depending on availability, the REACH teams can serve as an alternate response resource to certain calls for service for people experiencing homelessness with mental health and physical health concerns that do not require law enforcement or emergency medical response. The REACH teams will be a key partner in ending the cycle of homelessness and improving health outcomes through proactive follow-up, engagement, and close coordination between the Health Department and other care partners.

REACH team members assess for safety and physical health emergencies and can request assistance in situations where additional response is needed from the Long Beach Fire or Police departments. The departments work collaboratively to ensure a warm handoff is done during a response to a call and to provide follow-up information when appropriate.

Each member of the REACH teams receives extensive training in supporting people through experiences of trauma, educating people on health and medical conditions and engaging people in conversations about substance use, with a focus on both harm reduction and behavior change. These unique skill sets have equipped the team with the tools to support and guide even those whom have experienced long-term homelessness, into interim and permanent housing settings.

When not responding to urgent calls for a response, the REACH teams conduct neighborhood needs assessments to identify historically under-resourced areas, such as those with a significant number of drug overdoses, human trafficking incidences, and mental health needs. The teams provide proactive outreach as well as follow-up engagement to people experiencing homelessness. This may include interacting with people in treatment settings such as hospitals, mental health, and substance use disorder programs, or interim housing settings to ensure that connections are maintained, and people are continually supported in their recovery.

“The REACH teams are an innovative and best practice model for integrated health and mental health outreach,” said Health and Human Services Director Kelly Colopy. “By taking services directly to each call for response, their work continues to be crucial in ensuring people experiencing homelessness are getting the help they need.”

The REACH teams operate weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with expected expansion into weekends when additional staffing is secured. The REACH teams may be contacted by calling 562.570.4672 (4MSC). Calls that come in after 4 p.m. will direct individuals, via voicemail, to contact 911 for an immediate medical response if needed. Any messages received after 4 p.m. will be reviewed the following morning. Calls and messages will be triaged and prioritized based on urgency. Any call or message that does not have a direct concern regarding a person’s physical or mental health will be scheduled within normal outreach protocols and will be addressed within 48 hours.

About the City of Long Beach 

Home to approximately 470,000 people, the multiple award-winning and innovative City of Long Beach offers all the world-class amenities of a large metropolitan city while maintaining a strong sense of individual and diverse neighborhoods nestled together along the California coast. As a full-service charter city, Long Beach is home to the Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific, several museums and theaters, a highly-rated school district, Long Beach Airport, the Port of Long Beach, as well as many award-winning City departments such as Health and Human Services; Parks, Recreation and Marine; Development Services; Public Works and more. The City also has a highly respected university and city college, two historic ranchos, five hospitals, 12 libraries, five golf courses, 169 parks, miles of beaches, marinas, bike paths and a Bike Share program. 

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