County launches campaign to promote Mobile Crisis Response Team
Article by: Alexander Nguyen
The San Diego Health and Human Services Agency on Monday kicked off an ad campaign to let people know about new services available for those experiencing a mental health crisis.
Dubbed the Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT), the program is intended to help people experiencing mental health or substance use crises by dispatching behavioral health experts to those emergency calls instead of police when appropriate.
The program was piloted in North County in 2021 and expanded countywide in December. According to the county, during the 2019-2020 fiscal year, local law enforcement responded to more than 54,000 psychiatric crisis calls.
Since February 2021, 672 people were helped through the MCRT program, county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.
"We know that law enforcement sometimes has to be the responding entity if the individual is a danger to themselves or someone else. But a lot of these folks are not a danger to themselves or someone else," Fletcher said. "And in that case, we want somebody like the people you see standing here behind me, trained clinician, peer support specialist, folks with lived experience, folks who have the time, the compassion, the empathy, the expertise to be able to help get these individuals into the right place."
The mobile crisis team is not only a better way to get people experiencing mental health crisis help but it is also changing the entry point where they get care and changing their overall trajectory, he said.
Yasmin Saadatzadeh, a team lead with the mobile crisis team, said many times when people call in, they specifically request the MCRT over police involvement.
"It's unfortunate there's been people who have had a negative experience with the police," she said. "So we can help be kind of that force that helps get them get the help that they need without the police involvement.”
The public awareness campaign will be implemented in two phases, Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said. The first phase was launched earlier this month with 80 billboards placed countywide. There are also digital banner ads, community newspaper ads, local radio ads in multiple languages and are continually refined based on community input, she said.
"The goal of our awareness campaign is to speak to 3.3 million county residents, but we also need to focus on one-on-one conversations," she said. "To increase awareness about our Mobile Crisis Response Teams, this program engages new workers to outreach through on the ground organizations. We're connecting with diverse communities across our region to provide desperately needed information about how to access desperately needed services."
Anyone who has experienced a mental health crisis could call the county's Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240, a non-law enforcement MCRT will be deployed to assess the situation and offer help.