SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Over the last year, teams of three have responded to behavioral health crisis calls across San Diego County without law enforcement involvement.
The Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCRT) consist of a licensed behavioral health clinician, a case manager, and a peer support specialist with lived experience.
The County of San Diego works with Telecare and Exodus Recovery, Inc. to provide MCRT services in-person and now have 16 teams countywide available 24-7.
“When we get there, there’s this sense of relief, and you see a de-escalation occur right in the moment as opposed to them feeling anxious or unsure about whether or not they’re going to be transported in the back of a law enforcement vehicle,” said Chris Isaac, a team lead with Telecare MCRT. “The types of calls that we get are typically crisis intervention situations.”
Since launching last year, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the teams had been out to hundreds of mental health and addiction crisis calls. The calls typically don’t involve medical emergencies or threats of violence.
“Since February of last year, more than 672 clients have been referred to MCRT, that includes 51 referrals from National City and Chula Vista Police Departments. Those two cities now have this integrated into the 911 process,” said Fletcher. “We are working with other law enforcement jurisdictions to get that same system in place, and we believe that soon that will happen.”
Fletcher said MCRT connected 112 people to treatment services that they were not previously connected to.
According to the county, during the 2019-2020 fiscal year, “local law enforcement agencies received more than 54,000 calls involving a psychiatric crisis.” MCRT is meant to give another option to those who need help during a crisis, with clinicians responding rather than officers.
“Situations where somebody is struggling with a lot of anxiety or maybe having some depression and needing to receive some help from a licensed clinician or a case manager to help them stabilize themselves in that situation,” said Isaac.
“For me, I really like the idea to our team being able to go out and respond to a crisis and have mental health professionals as well as a peer recovery coach as opposed to having law enforcement come out, for a situation where someone just really needs to talk to someone or maybe be transported somewhere where they can be stabilized.”
The program first launched in the North Coastal region, expanded to the South Bay, and is now available countywide.
The hotline number available 24-7 is (888) 724-7240. Billboards have gone up letting people know across the county.
“It’s a great service, it’s a great program, we want people to know it’s available,” said Fletcher. “You don’t have to call 911 for everything that happens; if someone is not a danger to themselves or someone else, call the access and crisis line.”