San Diego County officials Monday touted the successes of a new specialized team that responds to people experiencing mental health and substance abuse crises, situations that were often previously handled by law enforcement.
The Mobile Crisis Response Teams, which are comprised of mental health clinicians, case managers, and peer support specialists, began services in January 2021 and are now available countywide.
Those suffering from nonviolent crises are given assessments, crisis intervention services and linked to treatment and other services, according to the county.
"We are already seeing positive impacts all across the board we know that every call where MCRT is deployed is a call where law enforcement isn’t deployed and it gives law enforcement better opportunity to do the work that they should be doing and we know already that this leads to hundreds of positive outcomes," Director of San Diego Behavioral Services Luke Bergmann told NBC 7.
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MCRTs are partnered with the Chula Vista and National City police departments -which refer calls to MCRT when appropriate -- though county officials say work is underway to establish partnerships with nine other jurisdictions.
MCRTs have responded to 672 referrals and linked more than 110 people to treatment services, according to the county. Officials say 47% of the referrals have led to people gaining access to treatment options in their communities.
"Mobile Crisis Response Teams are working. Nearly 700 referrals for behavioral health services have resulted in better outcomes for individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis,'' said Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
"Mobile Crisis Response Teams change a person's entry point into the health care system and change their trajectory moving forward. Over time, we want to reduce the number of people who get to a state of crisis, and the way you do that is by engaging people in community care and other services," Fletcher said.
County officials said the recent focus on behavioral health services has been beneficial, with the implementation of MCRTs and crisis stabilization units, which provide individuals with services in a community-based or hospital setting.
"These response teams are saving lives, demonstrating that this new approach to mental health is showing signs of real progress,'' Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said.
"These people that we meet are going through some of the worst moments in their life and they feel helpless and me personally, I’ve been there, so I know what that feels like when there’s nobody there and we get to provide them with that person that is caring," Bergmann said.
Those seeking assistance for someone having a nonviolent behavioral health crisis were encouraged to contact the county's Access and Crisis Line at 888-724-7240.