By County News Center
San Diego, CA–County of San Diego officials and community partners Monday announced early results and the launch of a broad, public awareness campaign for a program providing a specialized response to people experiencing mental health, drug, or alcohol-related crisis.
Since the Mobile Crisis Response Teams began services in January 2021, the non-law enforcement program has responded to 672 referrals and successfully linked over 110 people to treatment services. Forty-seven percent of referrals have resulted in people being able to access treatment in their community, without the need for law enforcement or more acute services. Of those MCRT has served, approximately 20% were experiencing homelessness.
“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.”
Following the initial round of the campaign, the second phase of public messaging will provide more focused messaging, photos, and engagement tailored to underserved populations.
“These response teams are saving lives, demonstrating that this new approach to mental health is showing signs of real progress,” said Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer. “San Diego, we need your help to get the word out.”
Mobile Crisis Response Teams, or MCRTs, are available countywide for people experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis. The teams are licensed mental health clinicians, case managers, and peer support specialists who travel to the person to provide assessment, crisis intervention services, and connections to treatment and other services, as needed. The training, compassion, and resources these teams bring with them on every call are proving to be a winning combination.
The response teams partner with Chula Vista and National City police departments, which refer calls to MCRT when appropriate. The County is also working with nine other jurisdictions to establish similar partnerships.
“Innovative community-based interventions are critically important to meeting people where they are with the right response, thereby advancing our vision to provide an equitable and regional distribution of services,” Dr. Luke Bergmann, director of Behavioral Health Services division at the County Health and Human Services Agency, said at a news conference announcing the campaign and the early results.
In the past few years, the County has made significant increases in investment and funding to provide better access to behavioral health services.
Throughout 2021, the County significantly expanded the capacity of crisis stabilization units for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis, providing much-needed support to individuals who may otherwise end up at a local emergency room or jail.
The units provide services in a community-based or hospital setting for people experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.
Services are provided on a walk-in basis with stays of less than 24 hours. In addition to walk-in, community, and mobile crisis team transport, law enforcement may drop off people experiencing a behavioral health crisis to the stabilization units as a safe alternative to jail or a hospital, allowing officers more options to connect people to care.
Crisis stabilization units are designed to enable the smoothest transition possible from law enforcement engagement to care hand-off. The system is less taxing on individuals, allows officers to return quickly to the field and provides a care plan leading to less recidivism.
Anyone can call the County’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240 if they or someone they know is having a nonviolent behavioral health crisis.