The Vallejo mental health building has two entrances, one for the crisis center and one for the outpatient clinic. The crisis center is short staffed, with only two technicians, Chyral Coleman and Brian Harris, but they can draw on the resources of the outpatient clinic when necessary. Teamwork is key.
A guard checks a middle-aged man for weapons. “He’s my buddy,” the client, Mike, comments, mentioning that they both used to be in the military. “He’s here to make sure everyone is safe.” Mike is waiting for his girlfriend, but he also uses the center. “I could go to the VA, but I get better service here. They seem more concerned and have a more caring feeling. If you give them respect, they give you respect back. They understand when you are upset and try to calm you down and get you situated. They’ll go to all extremes to help. At the VA some of them are helpful, but they change up on you, and then they just drop a bunch of pills on you and say ‘here’ and you go ‘wow.’ I can come in here anytime, and if I had a real bad crisis and even if the police had to bring me in.”
Mike describes how the staff at the center treated his girlfriend even though she didn’t have MediCal. “It took a month of Sundays” he states, to get her MediCal, but they kept treating her and making her feel welcome until they could get her MediCal processed.
Mike is a Vietnam vet and suffers from manic depression and stress. Today he’s relaxed. He’s helping out his girlfriend’s father, and they are planning a camping and fishing trip. “Do you catch much,” I ask. “Nah, I’m not much of a fisherman. I just like to get away,” he responds.
Mike is not always this relaxed. “When I get manic I can really get going,” he states. He is thankful the center is walking distance from his house. If he is having a problem, he can walk in and they will calm him down. He is concerned about having to go to Fairfield if the Vallejo center closes. It can take a couple of hours for him to get to Fairfield by bus, and then the center is out of town. He has a car, but gas money is tight. “A lot of people don’t have vehicles. When they are not in their right minds I don’t think they are going to make it out there,” he says. “And you don’t want them to go out and be like one of those mass murderers. People like that, you want to take care of them before it gets to that point. I have buddies I wouldn’t trust with a knife or a gun if they were in a space where they needed mental treatment.”