EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Senator Mike Braun toured the Evansville Rescue Mission on Monday morning as a part of his pledge to visit all 92 counties in Indiana.
While there, Braun, elected in 2018, was given an overview of the services the Rescue Mission provides, as well as the major issues those in the Evansville homeless population are dealing with.
The top two are substance abuse and mental health, both Rescue Mission staff and Evansville Police Department Homeless Liaison Officer Josh Brewer told the Jasper native.
The EPD has had the homeless liaison position since 2019, building its program off one already in existence in Sarasota, Florida.
Brewer said the main goals are to work both with individuals experiencing homelessness and with the social service agencies that work to serve those populations.
He said as a first responder, a member of the EPD could be the first contact with someone who is experiencing homelessness. While speaking with Braun, Brewer highlighted a need for more mental health assistance in the form of additional space in State Hospitals.
“Our mental health system is broken, Community based mental health is not working,” he said. “Almost every individual who works with any of these organizations that serves that population will tell you the exact same thing.”
He said there are issues with officers encountering community members with legitimate mental health issues who are not medicated, whether by choice or an inability to navigate the system.
Sometimes they need someone by their side to hold their hand and walk them through the process of going to appointments, Brewer said.
Talking with the Courier & Press, Braun said it seems the idea of having an entity like the Rescue Mission work directly with law enforcement offers a perfect one-two effort to make sure those services are provided that people may need.
For mental health and substance abuse, Braun said grassroot efforts are the best option, though federal funding does have a place.
“Here at the local level and state level, things will be more dependably probably funded over time,” Braun said. “I wouldn’t look to them to take the lead on it. There’s a lot of room for improvement with (the federal government’s) engagement on almost any issue.”