SAN DIEGO — San Diego County’s Mobile Crisis Response Team is about to get a multi-million-dollar influx of cash to expand its services for those experiencing mental health crises, officials announced.
On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors voted to accept a one-time $4.48 million congressional grant to put towards the MCRT program, specifically to support areas with higher call volumes and to establish a pilot team to directly respond to schools.
The MCRT program, launched in 2021, was implemented to shift behavioral health-related calls from law enforcement to trained clinicians. With the program, calls that come into law enforcement or other lines — like 9-1-1 and 9-8-8 — are routed to the MCRT service for a field team to respond.
Once the team has been dispatched and arrive on scene, the team of behavioral health experts assess the person, de-escalate any concerns and connect them with services, such as counseling, case management and substance use treatment.
“About half of our clients contacted by our MCRT teams were stabilized in the field and connected with services, reducing the stress on law enforcement and other expensive services,” County Behavioral Health Services director, Dr. Luke Bergmann, said in a release.
According to officials, field teams have responded to over 6,500 calls and referrals between Jan. 2021 and July 2023, with call volumes steadily increasing across the county during that period.
Preliminary regional volumes show that MCRT teams responded to the most calls this summer in the Health and Human Services Agency’s East region, receiving about 445 from June to August. Comparably, 359 calls were received in the Central region, 297 in the North, 272 in the South and 187 on North Island.
Nearly 30% of all MCRT clients were 25 years old or younger, according to health officials — a trend that underscores “the need to expand support to youth in schools to connect students with behavioral health experts quickly.”
The Board of Supervisors’ vote on Tuesday opens up the funding to be used from Sept. 30, 2023 to Sept. 29, 2024.