Alachua County commissioners agreed Monday to pay $65,000 to hire a mental health professional to go into the streets and shelters to work with homeless people who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.
The county also wants the City of Gainesville to pick up half the cost.
The agreement to hire the professional was made during the Board of County Commissioners’ joint quarterly meeting with the city. In addition to the new professional, the city and county will also use existing staff to create an outreach model.
Alachua County Commission Chairman Robert Hutchinson said a number of homeless people in the community who grapple with mental health and substance abuse issues would benefit from professional outreach.
“I think ultimately what we need is a multidisciplinary team whose job it is to find the homeless wherever they are or people with mental illness and help them,” Hutchinson said. “We need to have someone whose job it is to interact with people who are either causing a problem or need some help and do it in a way that is not law enforcement based but is based on helping the individual get better.
“Hopefully we’re starting to get the pieces in place.”
Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy said it’s not simply a matter of finding a professional to get the homeless and pick up their things and take them to a place, but about having a specialist who knows how to deal with homeless people who may be difficult to approach.
Commissioner Lee Pinkoson said the county is already paying about $5 million per year to address mental health and homelessness.