Thousands of people seeking help did not get a police response. That’s a good thing.

Three years ago, the county launched a pilot program to replace ill-equipped law enforcement officials with mental health experts for those in crisis.

The effort started small with just a handful of professionals responding to calls in North County. But it quickly expanded. Today, there are nearly four dozen Mobile Crisis Response Teams countywide handling hundreds of calls for nonviolent emergencies each month.

Though still fairly new, county officials say the program is proving to be one of the county’s most promising models in its effort to overhaul the region’s mental health system, especially at a time when California is working to do the same.

MCRTs work around the clock, seven days a week, to help people experiencing a substance use or mental health crisis. Each team has a case manager, mental health clinician and a peer support specialist.

Full story: Thousands of people seeking help did not get a police response. That’s a good thing.

11 Replies to “Thousands of people seeking help did not get a police response. That’s a good thing.”

  1. My only question is: How much of an improvement this program is making? I agree that a separate program or organization that responds to mental health and non-violent calls like these are a good thing. I personally would like to know however how effective it is compared to when an officer responds.

  2. I think that in a lot of cases, Crisis Response Teams would be much better at handling the mental health and drug abuse situations. Some people especially those mentioned before have a tendency to get nervous around uniformed police officers which can lead to escalation of a situation. My only concern is for the safety of the Crisis Teams when they enter a situation that turns out to be dangerous and they are left defenseless. You could assume that someone would have no ill will towards the Response Team but addicts and mentally ill people to not always act rationally. What are some things that could be implemented to better ensure the safety of these Response Teams when they encounter a situation that cannot be solved without force?

    1. I completely agree that crisis response teams are frequently more appropriate to manage substance abuse and mental health issues, particularly in light of the possibility of escalation in cases involving police. It is crucial to guarantee these teams’ safety, especially under unpredictable situations. Risks can be reduced by putting in place thorough training programs that prioritize crisis intervention and de-escalation tactics. Also, supplying non-lethal defense capabilities to Response Teams and guaranteeing that they have access to backup support and real-time communication could improve their safety in difficult situations. How can communities work together to set up procedures and materials that put Crisis Response Teams’ safety first while dealing with emergencies in an efficient manner?

  3. The idea of this program is very exciting to me. Most people with serious addictions or mental health struggles are incredibly reluctant to seek out help, but with Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCRTs), the help comes directly to the person in danger. The data shows that in a six month period, only two percent of calls received by the MCRTs resulted in diversion to law enforcement, which should ultimately be the goal; we need to keep these people out of the system and on the road to recovery. I am curious, how much does it cost to run these programs? The article discusses MCRTs being implemented on more school campuses, which could help with youth struggles in a less traumatic way than dealing with police. Will campuses be open to these types of changes?

    1. Hey Ethan I agree with you that Mobile response crisis teams can do a lot of good in our communities especially when we are speaking of people with addiction and mental health issues. I believe that this will help law enforcement significantly in the future by having specific groups for different aspects instead of police officers doing it all. It will help communities in the future.

  4. I think that these response teams are a major turning point in helping law enforcement. Police officers have to do so many other jobs besides enforcing the law every day they have to be medics, teachers, counselors, and law enforcers all while making on average about 50,000 dollars a year. So for some of that work to be more spread out is always a good thing and seems to be working well. I have great hope for this decision and I feel that this will lead to more and more community programs such as this.

  5. Do crisis response teams deserve a larger consideration, perhaps for a federal program? Crisis response teams fill in the gap between mental health professionals and psychologists as opposed to the police. While the police can help in a variety of ways, their track record has not been great with those who are mentally ill or suicidal. The fact is that our police are not trained adequately to deal with these situations, and can often take the wrong direction when confronting them. Having professionals trained to deal with these situations could lower the amount of force used by police yearly, an positive result to say the least.

    1. This guy gets it. Having a response group that is trained for situations involving mental health is going to be significantly more efficient than officers who may not be able to handle intricacies like someone else’s mental illness. The only thing I would be concerned for is how much the workload would be for these response teams as stated by the article they work 7 days a week with little to no breaks. However with many people willing to do social work there many be, in the future, less of a workload for these individuals

  6. What type of impact could this have on the response team employees? According to this article they work “around the clock” 7 days a week responding to calls regarding mental health. If a person is working that much they will experience fatigue/career burnout, feeling overwhelmed, or even quitting which will negatively impact what the response teams are trying to do. Without employees the whole idea of this novel idea will be out the window so there should be more incentive to become employees and reduce the workload that these people face. There are many college graduates who attain a degree in social work so there may be a large amount of individuals willing to apply.

  7. How will this effect the funding for other programs? I think that this is a fantastic idea. What happens, however, when those who are sent to a situation that turns violent? The police will be called an the whole point of having a separate team is so the police can be sent else where.

  8. This program, where case managers and mental health professionals respond to nonviolent situations of mental health and drug addiction, has proven successful in deflecting calls from law enforcement and offering crisis intervention services; nevertheless, cooperation between MCRTs and police agencies is still necessary to optimize community safety. Through this partnership, resources are allocated efficiently and those experiencing a crisis are given the right assistance without needless escalation. In order to ensure seamless collaboration and improve community safety, how can we strengthen the relationship between police departments and crisis response teams? What policies or procedures may be put in place to help MCRTs and law enforcement organizations communicate and work together, especially in situations when both organizations would be involved in responding to a crisis situation? I do think this is a great idea, however, the execution is still very shaky and I wouldn’t be confident to implement this everywhere quite this early on. There are definitely some kinks that need to be fixed beforehand. One is the safety of the response team. I think police officers should just take on these positions and have a different role/uniform but still be BLET certified in case the need presents itself at any given moment.

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