Mental health team will now handle some 911 calls in Contra Costa County
on January 13, 2022
Mental health emergencies account for more than 1 in 10 of the 911 medical calls in Contra Costa County. A new program will now address those calls with crisis teams that include behavioral health professionals.
This week, Contra Costa Health Services unveiled the Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime program, which will get clinicians involved in accessing medical calls and determining when a crisis response team is needed. The county is now hiring for the A3 pilot program, with plans to have the service running around the clock in 18 months, Health Services said in a news release Tuesday.
“Our community recognized an unmet health need and has come together in an unprecedented way,” Contra Costa Health Director Anna Roth said in the release. “When fully implemented, A3 will ensure that everyone in our community can receive culturally and clinically appropriate crisis services whenever help is requested because of a behavioral health emergency.”
In 2019, about 14,000 emergency calls were related to behavioral health, according to Health Services. And last year, the county assembled a group of first responders, mental health advocates and patients, patient families and local government officials to develop a system that would provide a timely and appropriate response to such calls.
Under A3, behavioral health professionals will go out on some of those calls, along with first responders. The response is coordinated by the Miles Hall Community Crisis Hub, a call center that is staffed by Health Services’ clinicians two days a week and soon will be staffed five days, Health Services said. The team will determine if the caller needs someone to talk to or a place to go for care, or whether a mobile crisis team should be dispatched.
The hub, which will play a critical role in A3, is named after a 23-year-old man who was experiencing a mental health emergency when he was killed by Walnut Creek police in 2019. Hall’s family has campaigned for alternatives to a police response to such emergencies.
A3 was established using $5 million from Measure X, which voters approved last year to add a 0.5% sales tax to fund health and other essential services in the county.
News of its launch came four months after Oakland announced a similar pilot program in which 911 calls pertaining to behavioral health issues will be handled by a trained team of civilian responders rather than the Police Department. The Fire Department is in charge of the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland.
“We have seen tragic cases when armed police are sent to deal with people involving cases like mental health or homelessness that people end up dead,” Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said when MACRO was unveiled in September. “By providing civilian responders, we can save money and save lives.”
Contra Costa Health Services already provides crisis response services through other programs, from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
In addition to calling 911, people needing mental health services in Contra Costa County can reach the mobile crisis response at 211 or 833-433-2672.
More information about A3 is on the Health Services’ website.
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This is wonderful news for the community, the patients, and above all the police who are called to address issues for which they have little training.