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Mental Health Crisis Team Hits Streets


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By Lookout Staff

January 8, 2024 -- A mental health crisis team was deployed in Santa Monica Monday as part of a pilot program to help, and eventually alleviate, the heavy workload of first responders dealing with the homeless.

The three-member team will be available five days a week to assist Police and Fire personnel with calls for service involving "individuals experiencing a mental health crisis," City officials said.

The program -- a partnership between the City and the LA County Department of Mental Health (DMH) -- will initially focus on the Downtown area but could quickly expand citywide.

"The team will have the ability to do a psychiatric transport to an urgent mental healthcare facility or hospital," officials said in a press release Monday.

It also can impose a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalization for those "deemed to be a danger to themselves or others" and "assist with lower-level needs for someone in crisis," officials said.

Under the pilot program two Santa Monica-based therapeutic transport teams will initially staff the van for eight hours per day, according to City officials.

The teams include a driver, a peer support specialist and a clinical social worker, officials said. The first month of the program "will involve team training and integration with first responders.

"As the team continues to embed itself in the Santa Monica community, they will accompany first responders and will ultimately have the ability, if appropriate, to independently handle calls for service," according to the release.

"This approach will allow for more targeted and tailored responses focused on behavioral health care, while also expanding first responders’ capacity to address other emergency calls."

The pilot program "is part of Santa Monica’s push to collaborate with regional service providers for a coordinated, holistic approach to addressing homelessness," officials said.

The City has earmarked $464,000 for the program, and the County is providing $1.7 million for staffing resources.

"The ultimate goal is to expand the program so that a county behavioral health team, led by a clinical social worker, is available in Santa Monica 24 hours a day, seven days a week," City officials said.

"This new resource builds on council action last year that secured more funding for community mental health resources."

Mayor Phil Brock said the program allows the City "to provide a meaningful and appropriate level of response to support someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Mental health is a critical community need, particularly when it comes to our efforts to address homelessness," Brock said.

The program also "will benefit a wide range of clients" that can include "a teenager considering suicide" or "a senior experiencing dementia," City officials said.

Santa Monica is the third jurisdiction in LA County to partner with the DMH to deploy a new approach to responding to mental health needs in the community, County officials said.

“Homelessness will best be solved by scaling solutions just like this one that meet people where they are with care and support from the county’s Department of Mental Health," said Board of Supervisors Chair Lindsey P. Horvath, whose Third District includes Santa Monica.

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