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All 11 law enforcement agencies in the San Diego County region now will refer mental health crisis calls that come into 911 to a County-sponsored Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT). Chair Nathan Fletcher of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, flanked by members of local law enforcement, county behavioral health experts and MCRT clinicians, made the announcement at the County Administration Center. 

In March, law enforcement agencies signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the County, and since then the agencies have been phasing in the process of referring calls to MCRT. As of Monday, May 9, all of the agencies are referring calls. The participating law enforcement agencies  are: San Diego Unified Port District (Harbor PD), La Mesa, San Diego, Carlsbad, El Cajon, Oceanside, Escondido, Chula Vista, National City, Coronado, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.  

“Mobile Crisis Response Teams are working, and through this new collaboration with the 11 law enforcement agencies in San Diego County, their dispatch teams are now on the frontlines to make sure MCRT reaches people in need,” said Chair Fletcher. “MCRT is operating around the clock and it is a better way to provide the right services, at the right time. MCRT has responded to more than 1,200 referrals and with trained behavioral health experts being the first person a patient encounters, it changes their entry point into the healthcare system, and changes their trajectory moving forward.” 

The County continues to encourage people to first call its access and crisis line at 888-724-7240 to have a Mobile Crisis Response Team sent, but now because of the MOA, if someone calls 911, a team can also be dispatched from there too. 

During today’s announcement many of the participating law enforcement agencies were present, including the Chula Vista Police Department and their Chief of Police Roxana Kennedy. Her department was an early adopter of dispatching MCRT through their 911 and she said: “We are thankful for this partnership and we are committed to its success.” 

A 911 dispatcher from the Chula Vista Police Department also gave testimony about her experiences diverting mental health crisis calls to the County’s MCRT experts.  

Christian Hodges, a Clinical Director with County MCRT contractor Telecare who is a member of the teams that connect with individuals when called to the scene said: “When someone is experiencing a behavioral health crisis, our teams of clinicians, case managers and peer staff that are trained to respond to a behavioral health crisis meet the person in the community where they live. We know how to deescalate the situation, connect with them on a personal level, and provide them with the care, and services they need to improve their circumstances.”   

MCRT is Delivering Results

There are 16 Mobile Crisis Response Teams working different shifts daily all across San Diego County and it is now a 24/7 initiative as of April of this year. 

Since January of 2021, Mobile Crisis Response Teams have responded to 1,277. One-thousand and ninety-nine were from the Access and Crisis Line and 178 were from Law Enforcement. 

  • Approximately 47% of calls responded to resulted in the individual being able to be stabilized and remain in the community;

  • About 22% of calls responded to resulted in the  individual being transported to behavioral health services in the community- such as the crisis stabilization unit;

  • Approximately 13 % of calls responded to the individual declined services;

  • About 20% of the individuals the MCRT have served have been homeless; and  

  • Approximately 18% of calls resulted in one of the following: EMS intervention, Law Enforcement/PERT intervention, individual could not be located, call canceled while MCRT is enroute, or Hospital/ED.

“It is so wonderful to see the many months of hard-work in collaboration and in partnership with law enforcement, the County and the MCRT contractors. The ability to offer the community a non-law enforcement, clinician-led, behavioral health crisis response benefits the community, individuals and families who need assistance in a crisis,” said Dr. Piedad Garcia, Deputy Director, County of San Diego Behavioral Health Department.  “Although we have come a long way, the MCRT is still in its infancy stage and we will continue to expand and attend to the lessons learned. Part of the growing process is learning and  will continue to adjust and modify as needed based on input from the community and our partners, to ensure we continue to best meet the needs of our community.”