Residents Call for More Community Mental Health Services at Police Chief Search Meeting, and More!
Just a quick word of greetings to our readers upon the Somerville Wire’s return to print. All props to the 40 awesome Somervillians who donated $6,000 over several days a few weeks back to help us hire our new quarter-time Staff Reporter Ryan DiLello (welcome, Ryan!) for at least the next six months—and hopefully beyond!
Jason Pramas, Editor, Somerville Wire
p.s. – we just built a brand new site for our nonprofit sponsor Somerville Media Fund, on which you’ll find the new Wire section, and we’re still working out the kinks; so don’t be surprised if anything weird happens lol … also, if you’re inclined to donate to us through SMF, you can give one-time gifts currently but won’t be able to give recurring gifts until we install our new donation interface over the next couple of weeks …
FOLLOWING BOSTON, SOMERVILLE PURSUES RENT STABILIZATION
City Council considers filing home rule petition with the legislature, reaffirms support for Tenant Protection Act
Residents call for more community mental health services during police chief search meeting
During the first community meeting for the Somerville police chief search, residents echoed one another’s calls for more training for police on managing people with mental health challenges and for more community mental health services in general.
Just a day before the listening session, the Public Health and Safety Committee held a three-hour meeting on developing an alternative emergency response in Somerville.
Denise Molina Capers, the director of the Department of Racial and Social Justice, moderated the meeting listening session Tuesday, Feb. 28, as three members of GovHR, a human resources consulting agency, posed questions to the community.
Across answers to various questions, residents continued to weave in requests that the chief address and support the need for community mental health services.
“I would like to see an acknowledgment that public safety is also about public health.” One resident said. “My uncle had bipolar disorder and had many run-ins with Somerville police, so that’s where I’m coming from on this issue,” he clarified.
Another resident added, the new police chief should “cultivate collaborative partnerships with institutions that can provide social work and expertise in mental health situations.” Additionally, he said, police should “be able to call upon them in responding to or dealing with cases like that.”
A resident named Bev shared a story about a police officer who was unsure of how to assist her son, who is on the spectrum, when he was having “a meltdown” in Davis Square. “Officers need to be aware of things like autism. The issues of alternative emergency response, being able to deal with mental health issues, those are the kinds of things I’d like to see.” Bev said.
In addition to mental health, a couple of residents said they would like to see the police chief support the designation of safe consumption sites and another called for an impartial oversight board to investigate police misconduct.
A few residents inquired how the City and GovHR intended to handle the influence of the police union amidst the search. Director Molina Caspers said she would bring the question to Anne Gill, the City’s Human Resources director, to address at the next listening session.
The second listening session occurred March 9, but video has not been released.
Somerville Reopens Small Business Recovery Fund
The City of Somerville and Major Katjana Ballantyne announced March 1 that the Small Business Recovery Program has reopened for businesses continuing to be impacted by COVID-19. Forgivable loans worth up to $15,000 for brick-and-mortar businesses and $5,000 for home-based businesses and independent contractors within Somerville are available for businesses still suffering from financial losses related to the pandemic and its far-reaching impacts. The program is open until March 21, 2023.
To qualify, businesses must be located within the City of Somerville, have 20 or fewer full-time employees, and be able to demonstrate a decline in revenue during the past several years, amongst other eligibility criteria described below. If the City receives more applications than the program can fund, applicants will receive priority based on a score determined by several characteristics in their application (such as whether they have received previous rounds of COVID-related funding, or whether they are a women- or minority-owned business), until program funds are depleted.
For more information, or to apply, visit the Small Business Recovery Program website.
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Ryan DiLello is the staff reporter for the Somerville Wire