WOODLAND — In his two decades on the force, Davis police Lt. Thomas Waltz told Yolo County supervisors on Tuesday, he’s never seen a program that bridges the gap between law enforcement and mental health care.
“Many of the calls we go to don’t start out as mental health (crises),” Waltz said, “but they end up being somehow related to mental health, and we don’t have the resources to follow up on those.”
Beyond assessing whether someone is a danger to himself or others, there isn’t much officers can do to help someone in crisis, Waltz and others told supervisors Tuesday.
But now they’ll be getting some assistance.
Under a plan approved by supervisors, a mental health clinician will be housed at police departments in Davis, West Sacramento, Winters and Woodland and will accompany officers responding to mental health crises throughout the county.
“Once the law enforcement officer has decided there is not a law enforcement issue, the clinician will take over and evaluate,” explained Karen Larsen, director of Yolo County’s Department of Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health.
The program — dubbed Community-Based Crisis Response — will be funded through a state grant made possible by SB 82, the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013.
The grant provides $2.1 million over three years to fund not just the four mental health clinicians but peer counseling staff as well, so in addition to point-of-crisis care, follow-up support can be provided.
“What I’m really excited about is referrals,” Waltz said. “This program is what we’ve been looking for: Bodies who can do follow-up.”
The ultimate goal is to keep individuals out of the hospital and jail, something the clinicians may be able to do, county staff said, by referring them to other services, such as crisis residential treatment programs.
From there, peer counselors would assist in developing longer-term care. The program describes peer counselors as individuals “with lived experience with mental illness who are willing and able to relate to individuals as peers.”
The new mobile crisis response program will be operated by Turning Point Community Programs, which operates several other mental health programs for the county, including assisted outpatient treatment.
Larsen said law enforcement departments were surveyed to determine what days and hours a mental health clinician on site would be most valuable, and from that research came up with a schedule that may be modified later if need be. As currently planned, the teams would be available Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 3:30 p.m. to midnight with telephone crisis response available on Thursdays and Sundays.
“The target population is any Yolo County resident, whether a student at UC Davis or a person living on the river in West Sacramento,” Larsen said. “We expect to serve over 2,250 individuals annually.”
Larsen added that outcomes will be tracked during the course of the three-year program, including whether hospitalizations and incarcerations decrease; how many individuals suffer repeat crises; and the cost per person of operating the program.
In addition to funding mental health personnel, the grant also covered the cost of vans for transporting response teams — vans modified to provide an office-like seating area for assessments.
County supervisors expressed unanimous support for the mobile crisis response teams on Tuesday.
“I think this is great,” said Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis. “It’s a good step in the right direction.”
Also voicing support were members of the Yolo County Local Mental Health Board.
“While the Yolo County Local Mental Health Board continues to believe that all law enforcement personnel in Yolo County should be required to receive Crisis Intervention Training,” board chair Bob Schelen said in an email, “we also believe the proposed Community-Based Crisis Response services program … would bring an immediate improvement in life outcomes for those encountering emergency situations, as well as those being served by the Yolo County mental health system.
“It is our hope the program will divert those with mental illness from jail and hospitalization into treatment programs,” Schelen said. “After diversion from incarceration and hospitalization, it is our hope the affected individual will work with clinical staff to develop a self-care plan that will lead him or her to recovery and avoid future crisis.”
Larsen said the crisis response teams will be rolled out one city at a time and should all be in place by the fall.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy