Watch CBS News

'I Can Give Them Hope Because I've Been Through It' — Bill Shaner Navigates Emergency Room Patients With Mental Illness Toward Help

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — He's a mainstay in the emergency room at Mercy Hospital, visiting with those who need mental health care, particularly the homeless, but he's not a doctor.

Bill Shaner walks these halls, helping the homeless with mental health issues. It's a job he says he loves and understands because he's lived it.

"I decided I didn't have a disability anymore, I had an ability and that ability would be working with people of like kind," he said.

Bill holds a unique position as triage navigator at Mercy General Hospital.

"Mainly I just talk to the clients to get as much information as I can out of them and listen to them as much as I can," he said.

The clients he's talking about are those suffering from mental illness, who are often homeless.

"I can give them hope because I've been through it."

Diagnosed with schizophrenia a number of years ago, Bill was homeless and an addict.

"My episode was paranoia. I thought people were scheming on me," he said.

Hired as a navigator, he is one of the first people many patients dealing with a mental health crisis talk to.

"Sometimes I could just tell what's happening and I just let them explain to me," he said.

It's a knack invaluable to clinical social worker Brynn Jones.

"Bill is able to connect with patients in a way that I can't. He can just relate. There's a lot of times patients refuse to talk to me," she said.

The navigator program began three years ago as a partnership between TLCS, a community-based mental health agency and the county with funding from a grant. It's a program those involved with say is already a success with fewer return visits to the ER.

After talking to Bill, the clients are directly connected directly to services they might need for the next 60 to 90 days.

Bill says he's grateful he can share his experience with others.

"I try to give them hope, you're here now, that better things are going happen for you," he said.

The funding for this program is up next year and those involved say they are hoping it gets funded again, so it can continue its track record of success.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.