Psychiatric Emergency Calls Addressed

Contra Costa Health Services Partners with Police to Reduce Psychiatric Emergency Calls

A new partnership with Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) is helping police agencies within the county to reduce potentially dangerous psychiatric incidents by connecting clinicians to people encountered by officers who show signs of serious mental illness.

The Mental Health Evaluation Team (MHET) includes three full-time mental health clinicians from Behavioral Health Services (BHS), a division of CCHS, and one officer each from the Concord, Pittsburg and Richmond police departments.

Patrol officers from those departments, as well as neighboring police agencies, can now refer cases to their region’s MHET for follow up. The MHET officer and partnering clinician together connect with referred parties to offer help, such as referrals to outpatient treatment and benefits.

This voluntary service is offered to people whose mental health challenges result in repeated police calls for violent or threatening behavior, or who have been involuntarily hospitalized due to psychiatric crisis.

Delivering behavioral health services proactively, before police intervention is needed, improves the lives of people struggling with mental illness and helps keep everyone safe, BHS Director Cynthia Belon said.

"MHET helps break a cycle of crises for people who are in frequent need of emergency services because of mental illness. It provides an avenue to treatment they might not otherwise be able to access," Belon said.

The program is also expected to reduce public costs associated with repeated police visits and emergency psychiatric treatment, including ambulance transports and hospital admissions.

While new to Contra Costa, the MHET model has been successful elsewhere in California, including Oakland, San Mateo, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The Contra Costa County Police Chief’s Association obtained a $380,000 annual grant from the state Public Safety Realignment Act (AB 109) to fund the three new officer positions. BHS received a 3-year, $550,000 grant from the California Health Facilities Financing Authority (CHAFFA) to staff the program.

The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors approved contracts formalizing MHET in late September.

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