Professionals from the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, local homeless shelter workers and other service providers discussed homelessness and mental illness Monday night at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.
The forum was the third in a four-part series designed to improve local services for the mentally ill homeless population.
Panelist Wes Dahlberg, director of the Salvation Army, said that services assisting the mentally ill need to include a safe place to live.
“Housing, housing, housing,” Dahlberg said. “That’s the No. 1 need these people have.”
In addition to housing, panelists discussed improving mental health training for local residents and law enforcement, and identified gaps in the current services to those with mental illnesses.
Panel participant Ray Urbanek, of the Lawrence Police Department, stressed the need for area providers to properly identify those requiring care.
“I think a lot of people are in crisis every day, and a lot of them we don’t know about,” he said.
Forum organizer Steve Ozark, a member of the Coalition on Homeless Concerns, said the dialogue and participation in the forums so far has been encouraging.
“We are seeing new people coming out who are taking interest ... (residents) that may initially have no experience with this (mental illness).”
Ozark said he hopes the active participation in the forums will lead to better ways the community assists the area’s mentally ill homeless population.
“Our final goal really is to see what changes we can make,” he said.
The final forum will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 at the library, 707 Vt., and will focus on using the dialogue from the forums to implement changes to mental health and homeless services.