Opinion: A new approach to mental health crises will save lives
fish man, Ph.D., is a member of the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego and the North County Equality and Justice Coalition. He lives in El Cajon. Carolino is the brother of Dennis Carolino, who was killed by San Diego police in 2019 during a mental health crisis call. He is a member of the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego and lives in El Cajon.
The commitment that San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher have shown to using mental health clinicians, case managers and trained peer support specialists in Law enforcement’s place to respond to mental health emergencies is impressive to see. We were very pleased that they expressed their support for the new mobile crisis response teams in a commentary published in The San Diego Union-Tribune in September. The San Diego Racial Justice Coalition was alongside Supervisor Fletcher when he first introduced the County Mobile Crisis Response Teams, and we have long advocated for a non-police response to mental health emergencies. . We will continue to work with all elected officials to ensure the success of these teams.
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What drives our work is the deaths of so many, including Dennis Carolino, who needed professional and competent care during a period of mental strain, but was shot and killed outside his home in El Cerrito by two. San Diego police officers. years ago. There have been many high-profile cases of people who are in desperate need of help coping with a mental health crisis at the local and national level, and instead of receiving professional and appropriate support, they have faced challenges. unproductive orders and brutal and excessive force. To be able to fight this national epidemic, we pushed San Diego County and the City of San Diego to adopt the same programs that other cities and counties have adopted.
The formal description of the program that San Francisco has adopted and implemented should also serve as a model for what we want to establish here in San Diego: “The Street Crisis Response Team is a collaboration between the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Francisco Francisco Fire Department and the Department of Emergency Management to provide the most appropriate clinical interventions and care coordination for people facing behavioral health crises in public spaces in San Francisco. Each team includes a community paramedic, a behavioral health clinician and a behavioral health peer.
To ensure the success of local mobile crisis response teams, we strongly recommend that more data be made publicly available and that the data be used for team design and implementation. In particular, we ask for the publication of information on all mental health-related appeals, particularly those labeled as the most serious appeals – in law enforcement terminology, the “5150” appeals (so named in due to a section of the California Code on Welfare and Institutions).
We have questions about these calls. How many were non-violent and would have been better served by health and medical professionals? How many resulted in death or serious injuries at the hands of the police?
This data should serve as the basis for determining the success and value of the program. If we are to ensure that no more families have to live without loved ones who have suffered a mental health crisis and died at the hands of law enforcement, we need to make sure that we put in place a program that can providing appropriate and professional mental health care services to those in urgent need of this type of support.
We specifically want to make sure the local program has a county-wide start date with its 24/7 service. We also want to ensure that the appropriate professional staff and physical resources will be in place to serve the intended community. There must be clear and credible oversight of everyone involved in the program, and the model of public civilian oversight of law enforcement should serve as a model for such oversight.
Appropriate training for all personnel involved in the Mobile Crisis Response Team program should also be included, and this training should be based on best practices and models that have been developed as national standards. Evaluations of this program should be based on the public release of data related to all mental health appeals, and responses from all agencies should be monitored and evaluated based on positive results and ongoing support.
A large number of law enforcement calls involving mental health issues result in injury or death. Planning and implementing the deployment of county-wide mobile crisis response teams should ensure that crisis calls from residents in behavioral distress (including all 5150 calls) are answered by such a unit every time. This will allow families like ours to know that they will receive appropriate professional care and community resources and that they will not suffer the tragic loss of a family member. We are all watching.