LA Launches Pilot Program That Redirects 911 Incidents to Mental Health Workers

”We know that mental health is best treated by mental health experts,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Los Angeles County and City’s newest strides in addressing mental health include a Therapeutic Transportation program, announced Thursday, that would send mental health workers to 911 calls.

The program, built between the city of Los Angeles and the county’s Department of Mental Health, is planned to be on call every hour of the day in an effort to connect callers with mental health services. The general idea of the program is to decrease hospital overcrowding and better disperse police and firefighters according to calls.

“The Therapeutic Transportation Program vans are deployed from City Fire via their Tiered Dispatch system and operated by the Psychiatric Mobile Response Team (PMRT) in order to transport a client who is on a hold or to intervene on the streets to avoid the need for an involuntary hold.” L.A. County DMH says in an official document. “All vans are staffed with an expert team from the Dept. of Mental Health and are comprised of a clinical driver, psychiatric technician, and a peer support specialist enabled rapidly to initiate supportive case management.

The program’s announcement coincides with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans to focus more on care in mental health cases rather than criminalization, directing people struggling with disorders and addiction into court-ordered care that would medicate and house them.

“Rather than reforming in the margins a system that is foundationally and fundamentally broken, we are taking a new approach,” Newsom said during a news conference Thursday. “We are offering a new strategy and new partnerships. But we are offering it in a way that we haven’t in the past, and that’s with resources.”

According to Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Therapeutic Transportation program has already shown promise, with 20 percent of the 113 calls directed to mental health workers last month ending with treatment and release on site.

“We know that mental health is best treated by mental health experts,” Garcetti said Thursday. “Oftentimes, seeing a badge can trigger people’s trauma even more.”

The program is planned to require 58 counties in California to participate through their civil courts, and those who do not comply with requirements are said to face sanctions.

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