Opinion: Mental illness gets focus it needs with proactive San Diego County program, state proposal
The problems and perils of expecting law enforcement officers to be society’s point persons for people with mental illness have long been obvious. The Treatment Advocacy Center’s research showed that those with untreated mental illness were 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has long lamented that individuals in a mental health crisis are more likely to have run-ins with police than get medical attention, with many ending up in jail, worsening their crises.
Now programs are building off these concerns. San Diego County is expanding its use of Mobile Crisis Response Teams — which have behavioral health clinicians, case managers and peer support specialists from service providers Exodus Recovery and Telecare — to deal with some of the 35,000-plus mental health calls for service made annually to law enforcement agencies in the county.
Launched in January 2021 in the North Coastal region, Mobile Crisis
Response Teams are now available countywide, using 16 teams. National
City Police Chief Jose Tellez has high praise for the teams, saying
they get people the care they need while freeing up officers to deal
with serious crimes. But National City and Chula Vista are the only
local cities in which people can reach Mobile Crisis Response Teams by
calling 911 so far. Elsewhere, teams are available via the county’s
24-hour Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240. The intent is to
have 911 access countywide. That can’t happen soon enough.