MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS SERVICES COMING TO NORTH COUNTY
“The right response in a moment of crisis.”
SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors recently approved a partnership with Momentum for Health and Pacific Clinics to launch the Trusted Response Urgent Support Team (TRUST) program in Santa Clara County’s North County.
TRUST is a community-driven mobile mental health crisis response team composed of: specially trained community residents who have first-hand experience with mental health challenges; mental health workers; and first aid provider/responders to respond to crises in the community, without involving law enforcement.
“In a moment of crisis, folks need to feel safe when calling for help,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Chair of the County’s Health and Hospital Committee. “We need to do everything we can to respond quickly and connect folks in crisis with the kind of help they need. TRUST, our County’s latest mobile response program, offers a new intervention option that provides in-person support at the time of crisis that does not involve police.”
TRUST is designed to help residents who need assistance in resolving conflicts or stressful situations. Individuals experiencing a mental health crisis (or if their loved one is), can call 988, the new national suicide prevention lifeline (NSPL), for assistance. Calls coming from area codes 408, 669, and 650 within Santa Clara County will be directed to the County’s Suicide and Crisis Services Call Center. Residents without those area codes may access the County’s services by calling 1-800-704-0900 and pressing 1. Information shared on the call will be assessed and evaluated by clinical staff from Pacific Clinics in real time to determine if the situation can be resolved through de-escalation over the phone, or if it is necessary to dispatch in-person help.
“A mental health crisis can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, education and income level. It can occur at any time. Launching in the fall, TRUST offers an alternative to law enforcement response – an immediate community-based resolution option,” says Karen Meagher, clinical director of crisis continuum of service of Pacific Clinics. “We also provide additional resources for future support and a plan forward for those in need.”
Additionally, Momentum for Health’s North County location will provide TRUST in-person crisis response services, including mental/medical health assessments, stabilization and on-site resolution, and/or transportation to another place of service for stabilization. The team will use a specialized TRUST vehicle with a safe, calming, and therapeutic interior environment for transportation. The exterior was intentionally designed to ensure that it does not cause additional anxiety or stress for individuals who need on-site assistance.
“Having 24/7 crisis support available a phone call away, even at your doorstep if needed, provided by someone who is a mental health professional and knows how overwhelming it can feel to be in a crisis situation, is essential to resolving the situation,” said Shefali Miller, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Momentum for Health. “Our expectation is the TRUST team will be a valued and constant resource in the North County communities, and that people will feel safe reaching out when they need help.”
Today, if someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis calls the new, national, three-digit number 988, their call will be promptly answered, screened, and connected to the County’s crisis service programs including the following:
- Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) – A County-operated program in which mental health clinicians work closely with law enforcement and are dispatched to the scene when people in crisis have mental health symptoms, especially if they are suicidal and/or need an evaluation for psychiatric hospitalization. While MCRT is currently available for adults in the County, Simitian recently proposed a program expansion that includes a four-person team based in the North County and specialized training to respond to the needs of transitional age youth (16 to 24 years old).
- Mobile Response Stabilization Service – 24/7 in-person or phone crisis counseling (operated by Pacific Clinics) support to children, youth, and young adults (through age 21) who are in a non-life threatening acute psychological/emotional crisis.
- In-Home Outreach Team – A County-operated program that provides intensive outreach and advocacy for individuals who have multiple emergency mental health service visits in the past year, recent incarceration, or other high risks.
In addition to the services available through 988, the Palo Alto Police Department, in partnership with the County, has a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT). Calls for a PERT response are 911 generated and do not go through 988. The PERT crisis intervention model pairs a licensed mental health clinician with a law enforcement officer to respond to calls in real time involving people in active, acute mental health crises.
Simitian said he was, “Glad to see real progress. The need has been evident but standing up these teams has been challenging. Fortunately, there’s a growing number of mental health professionals who understand the importance of crisis response.”
When the TRUST program is fully operational (anticipated to be October 2022), community members can call 988 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to access services.
“Obviously, when the police are needed, we want them there. But we’ve got to be smarter and more adapt about getting the right kind of help to the right place in the right set of circumstances,” said Simitian. “It’s not easy, but it can be done. And now we’ll have the teams and tools to do it. Simply put, we’re working to ensure the right response in a moment of crisis.”