Mental health workers to team with Yolo officers

07/09/2014 6:47 PM

07/09/2014 6:48 PM

Mental health professionals will work side-by-side with police officers in Yolo County starting in the fall, on the strength of nearly $1.9 million in state grants.

The awards from state Mental Health Wellness Act and other funds will enable four “community-based crisis response” teams and vehicles to work with police in Davis, West Sacramento, Winters and Woodland, said Yolo County officials this week.

A clinician will accompany patrol officers on crisis calls. Those visits will be followed up the next day by a peer counselor who will work with the persons in crisis to help them find needed services and develop a mental health safety plan for family members.

Yolo Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Department officials, law enforcement and community providers teamed up in late 2013 to seek funding for the county’s Crisis Triage Program. They won approval earlier this year from the state Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, said Karen Larsen, Yolo County’s mental health director.

Larsen said the combination of an economic downturn, sharp cuts to county mental health staffing and rising mental health-related hospitalizations and jailings in Yolo County over the past several years “got everybody’s attention.” A grand jury report critical of the county’s mental health services emphasized the need, Larson said.

“We had been dismayed by the number of hospitalizations. Law enforcement was spending a significant amount of time dedicated to mental health,” Larsen said. “The message was loud and clear that we needed to do better.”

The state’s Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013 provides $142 million to expand access to crisis intervention and assistance as well as to create mobile crisis support teams in California communities.

“It shows a lot of creative thinking going on in the mental health and law enforcement communities. (Mental health) is not only a statewide issue and a national issue, it has grown locally,” said Dirk Brazil, Yolo County assistant county administrator. “Hopefully, Yolo can set some sort of model for people wanting to deal with this problem.”

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