Parking lot now a pop-up encampment County residents struggle to help tide of people displaced from Camp Fire

photo by Karen Laslo

First day of Camp Fire

by Leslie Layton

At Chico’s Walmart parking lot, you see the new homeless: Several hundred people, some living out of RVs, some out of cars, some out of tents, some with nothing more than a few blankets. This is what a community borne of disaster looks like: Food vendors who want to give, not sell. Guitar-strumming teenagers, scientologists, massage chairs and chaplains.

This is where many displaced people who were already living on the edge – of canyons, of finances, of California’s blue political culture –lodged when the Camp Fire swept through their communities, and here as elsewhere, disaster response has been underway. Chicoans pull in with boxed donations and trailers hauled from other cities deposit piles of used clothing and worn shoes. read more

Out of Darkness becomes a Chico tradition Annual downtown walk promotes suicide prevention

photo by Jessica Lewis

by Jessica Lewis

A crowd of people hold hands in a circle around the City Plaza on Oct. 13, bowing their heads as the song “1-800-273-8255” by Logic rings over speakers through downtown, referencing the suicide prevention hotline and marking the end to the ninth annual Chico Out of the Darkness walk.

“I found out about the Out of the Darkness walk because I participated in the Sacramento one after losing a friend to suicide in high school. I went for a few years, and then was like ‘why don’t we have one of these in Chico?’ There were other people that felt the same way and so we started the Chico walk in 2010,” said Ariel Ellis, co-chair for the Out of the Darkness walk and board member for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. read more

Noted journalist speaks on mental illness Pete Earley chronicles son’s ordeal, offers tips

photo by Dave Waddell

Pete Earley

By Dave Waddell

Desperate to get help for his mentally ill son, journalist Pete Earley told Chicoans Saturday he did things he never thought he’d do.

Earley said he lied about what his son had said, violated his own professional ethics by threatening to summon feared investigative reporter Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” TV fame, and “literally went out and grabbed a doctor” from a crowded emergency room hallway to evaluate his delusional son.

Eventually, Earley’s wife advised him that he couldn’t help his son, Kevin, as a parent, but that he could as a journalist. “For once, I listened to her,” Earley said. read more

DA sues DWR over Oroville Dam crisis Ramsey's office seeks damages over Feather River pollution

photo by Karen Laslo

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey

by Dave Waddell

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey announced today that he has filed a civil lawsuit against the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) over last year’s Oroville Dam calamity that forced the evacuation of 180,000 residents downstream.

Ramsey’s complaint against DWR was filed in Butte County Superior Court. It seeks damages of between $34 billion and $51 billion, or $10 for each of the between 3.4 billion and 5.1 billion pounds of material that the suit says were discharged into the Feather River during the crisis. read more

Chico PD to get pilot mobile crisis counselors Mental health workers to aid cops 10 hours a day

Dorian Kittrell

by Dave Waddell

A pilot project is in the works that will provide the Chico Police Department – criticized for its lack of crisis intervention efforts in the past – with two mobile mental health counselors to work alongside police officers 10 hours a day.

The program is described in a Nov. 27 memorandum, written by Butte County Department of Behavioral Health Director Dorian Kittrell to the county Board of Supervisors and obtained by ChicoSol.

Kittrell said his department is working on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Chico PD to assign two full-time mental health workers to the pilot mobile crisis response team, which will operate seven days a week from about 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. read more

Suicide prevention event draws hundreds Emotional remembrances mark Saturday's walk

photo by Dave Waddell

More than 300 people gathered Saturday at City Plaza and then walked through downtown Chico in support of suicide prevention.

Chico’s eighth annual Out of the Darkness Walk included some emotional remembrances from nine area residents, each holding a paper heart representing being touched by suicide or attempted suicide.

The event drew 307 walkers and raised nearly $10,500 that will be used “to prevent suicide, to defeat the stigma surrounding mental illness, and to support survivors of suicide loss and those at risk of suicide,” said walker co-organizer Lisa Currier, who directs Crisis Care Advocacy and Triage.