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Recommendations for Action in the MHCAN Crisis
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Sunday Sep 3rd, 2017 6:06 PM
MHCAN (Mental Health Clients Action Network) has faced a crisis for the last several years with police and city agencies breathing down its neck. The management of MHCAN and its Board of Directors has chosen to pursue, largely a low-profile work-behind-the-scenes approach. There's been little publicity about the upcoming Special Use Permit meeting of the Planning Commission which Board Chair Steve Pleich says is slated for 9-28. A month ago, I wrote the following suggestions to the community.
By Robert Norse

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) has many current and past members who have used MHCAN (Mental Health Clients Action Network) but are upset with current attacks, threats, and restrictions burdening its mission and its operation:

Demand City & County Agencies Take the Following Actions:

+++ End police collusion and surveillance with right-wing community organizations and unreasonably anxious neighbors and businesses trying to cook up “evidence” of a crime wave or public nuisance. The surveillance and heavy police presence has been frightening to clients and is an abuse of the police department’s funding and mission. We want assurances that this abusive behavior, supposedly either lessened or discontinued, will be definitely stopped and not resumed.

+++ Drop all proposed restrictive demands on MHCAN and hold public hearings on any new attempts to impose such conditions as restrictive hours, limiting daily client numbers, security guards, meeting bans, and other destructive restrictions that interfere with or work in direct opposition to its traditionally effective mission. This approach has created a hostile prison-like atmosphere at the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center and treats unhoused and disabled people like convicts.

+++ Restore autonomy to MHCAN, originally an effective client-run organization with an impressive track record for helping those in psychological distress, whatever their housing or financial status. MHCAN can and should determine its own policies and limits within normal city guidelines.

+++ Create a legal and firm policy of no-discrimination against low-income people as well as establishing a protected class punishing violence against the unhoused as a hate crime here.

+++ Acknowledge the sidewalks, city benches, and other areas around MHCAN are public areas and restore the right of all community members to use them without fear of harassment--not subject to restriction or control by private interests, whatever their fears. Cite and prosecute real crimes. The campaign to remove visibly poor from the public domain is both unworthy and unconstitutional.

+++ Disentangle city and county funding from restrictive covenants and restore traditional practices at MHCAN generally or require public hearings to justify attempts to shrink its services.

+++ Establish in local law and policy of respecingt the rights of the disabled—whether the disability be physical or mental to include such obvious needs as the right to sleep, to use public spaces, to be secure in their persons and property, to be free from harassment by authorities and private vigilantes.

This letter reflects the views of Robert Norse and some HUFF members—and hopefully a large chunk of the informed community.

Flier by Norse of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) 831-423-4833 309 Cedar 9-3-17

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Razer Ray
Monday Sep 4th, 2017 8:17 AM
Kidding right? The same people who run MHCAN also operate the Cattle Pen out on river street and are some of the biggest political figures in Santa Cruz.

The ONLY crisis is the collusion by the above, a corporatist-style interlocking, to suck every penny of available funds and divert it away from general homeless services to targeted populations, like non-violent offender parole releases, who come with state money attached, and drug rehab services, and behavioral health. But NADA ZERO ZIP for anyone whose homeless and WORKS, or TRIES TO WORK, for a living.

There's no money attached to them that they can swindle.

Fuck MHCAN. Fuck it's BoD. Fuck the Homeless-No-Services-Center

And fuck ever single Santa Cruz politician who sat on the county board of supervisors or city council for the last 30 years in the neck sideways. ESPECIALLY "Prog-Libs".
by Sylvia
Monday Sep 4th, 2017 8:42 AM
40% of County Mental Health Clients live in the City of Santa Cruz. Where does the City expect people to go?
by Robert Norse
(rnorse3 [at] Monday Sep 4th, 2017 5:36 PM
Razor Ray writes: "The ONLY crisis is the collusion by the above, a corporatist-style interlocking, to suck every penny of available funds and divert it away from general homeless services to targeted populations, like non-violent offender parole releases, who come with state money attached, and drug rehab services, and behavioral health. But NADA ZERO ZIP for anyone whose homeless and WORKS, or TRIES TO WORK, for a living." He's right.

Displaced renters without certifiable disabilities, folks made houseless through insurance company profiteering, unemployed workers who were raised here: those in "homeless" category that aren't able to sign on with their checks to prove a "pathway to housing" haven't gotten meals or shelter at the locked down Homeless -Lack-of-Services Center for 2 years now.

Still for that section of the population that is able to use it, folks report to HUFF it's a step up from the Coral St. scene and may still maintain some of its original client-run flavor.

For that reason, I reprint Board Chair Pleich's appeal. Folks can decide for themselves how best to spend their time, energy, and funds:

From: Steve Pleich
Sent: Friday, August 25, 2017 1:00 PM
Subject: MHCAN Special Use Permit Hearing

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, MHCAN (Mental Health Client Action Network) is the only peer owned, peer staffed and peer operated provider of mental and behavioral health services and support in Santa Cruz County. Many of you have also heard or are aware that the City of Santa Cruz has begun the process of revoking and replacing our special use permit, utilizing restrictive language that would significantly impact MHCAN’s ability to continue providing services.

Thanks to all of you who have privately expressed your concerns and have asked what you can do to help MHCAN during this process. It is greatly appreciated. We now ask that you publicly express those concerns to the Planning Department and Planning Commission in advance of the hearing set for early to mid-September. The subject should be “MHCAN Special Use Permit Hearing” or something similar, to ensure your words become a part of the record. Comments should be addressed to Mike Ferry via email,mferry [at], or U.S. Mail at:

Mike Ferry City of Santa Cruz
Department of Planning and Community Development 809 Center Street, Room 206
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

If you wish to provide a written comment, we ask that you consider these points as you answer in your own words:

1. Your opinion of the value to the community of peer centered mental health services and support.
2. How you have been personally touched by MHCAN services and/or staff.
3. How your family, friends or loved ones have been touched by MHCAN services, support of staff.
4. What our community would look like without access to the services provided by MHCAN.

Thank you for helping us continue the work that makes us all better together.
Steve Pleich
MHCAN Chair, Board of Directors

The hearing is at 7 PM on September 28th, according to Pleich, at the Santa Cruz City Council chambers.
by Interested
Tuesday Sep 5th, 2017 7:50 AM
Where will people go, Sylvia? To County Mental Health or the entities the county contracts with to provide services.
by John Cohen-Colby
Wednesday Sep 6th, 2017 7:19 PM
The psychiatric care at County Mental Health and Encompass is terrible. They just try to medicate people to make them manageable, not to treat their conditions. All the good psychiatrists left. MHCAN is a caring, compassionate environment. County Mental Health and Encompass are impersonal and odious.
by Concerned
Wednesday Sep 6th, 2017 7:26 PM
MHCAN was created because these services were lacking. They failed people on many levels. They do very little on the level of real support.

Where will people go? They will have nowhere to go. They are screwed. MHCAN was the one safe place that actually addressed their needs and really helped.

County Mental Health and Encompass services aren't about clients is about the big salaries of the staff. About 5¢ of every dollar makes it to the intended client.

These agencies are best known as "poverty pimps." They make money off of pretending to service their clients. The people cheated are the tax payers and the clients.

Instead of witch hunting MHCAN, they should be auditing and questioning these other failed service providers who manage the mental ill by turning them into overly medicated zombies without dealing the roots of the illness. It is similar to giving morphine to cancer patients but no other meds to attack the cancer.
by Sylvia
Sunday Sep 24th, 2017 10:38 AM
Sept 28, 7 PM, Planning Commission at City Council Chambers. MHCAN is 2nd hearing on their agenda. Council Chambers holds 100 people; can we fill the room?

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