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Seattle's mentally ill on streets helped by 'roaming counselor'

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Keith Seinfeld
/
KPLU

If you’ve been to downtown Seattle, you’ve probably seen people talking to themselves on street corners, or shouting at strangers. Now there’s a fresh face trying to help those in psychiatric crisis.

He’s a roaming mental health counselor, hired by the Union Gospel Mission and downtown’s business-funded Metropolitan Improvement District.

If a shop-owner or building manager is trying to deal with someone who seems to have lost touch with reality, they can ask Larry Clum to come help out. He also works with police and existing mental health agencies and homeless shelters.

Until recently, Clum was working at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, as an Emergency Room social worker for people who are delusional and psychotic.

As Seattle’s new counselor-on-the-streets (technically, he’s a “Director of Community Mental Health Programs”), Clum says his goal is to get the people off the streets and into treatment. But, they have to go voluntarily, and persuading them is often a long process.

He took KPLU science and health reporter Keith Seinfeld on a street tour. For the complete story, click the “listen” button above.

Keith Seinfeld has been KPLU’s Health & Science Reporter since 2001, and prior to that covered the Environment beat. He’s been a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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