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Tips on how to interact with mentally disabled homeless population in Arkansas

The Arkansas Homeless Coalition said not enough people know how to help a person who’s homeless and experiencing a mental crisis.

The Arkansas Homeless Coalition says not enough people know how to help a person who’s homeless and experiencing a mental crisis.

“This is an issue that has been going on. What is happening is awareness has been elevated from the mental health crises that we’re seeing not only in Arkansas but around the nation. So with social media, it’s brought a lot of this to light,” Chair of Arkansas Homeless Coalition Sybil Ward said.

Crisis intervention professionals, first responders, and the public were invited to the Coalition’s monthly meeting to talk about the right course of action.

The first step is recognizing signs that you need to call for help.

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“A lot of times if people are having a mental health crisis people think ‘oh I don’t want to be bothered with that’ or ‘this is a drug issue’ when in reality it’s somebody that’s not chemically balanced at the time,” Ward said.

This could look like someone who is gravely disabled or is threatening their own or others lives in any way.

She said in this case you should call 9-1-1 and immediately ask for a CIT officer.

“Often times police officers are called in and not informed that this is a mental health issue,” Ward said.

Karl Sorrells is one of about 500, CIT or Crisis Intervention Officers in the state.

“We try to take our time, we look at the resources that we have. We look at how the person is acting and decide whether or not they need medical help, mental help,” Sorrells said.

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They will make sure the person has all the available resources.

“Getting the information out there to the public and to the people who can definitely use them, that’s the big thing,” Sorrells said.

 If you'd like more information you can attend their next monthly meeting on May 8th at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center.

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