PLEASANTON — The city council has given the go-ahead to a pilot program designed to assist those suffering from mental health crises, while managing the level of police involvement.
Starting next year, the innovative program will send a licensed mental health professional in an unmarked police car to certain non-emergency dispatched calls instead of a uniformed Pleasanton police officer.
The program aims to allow clinicians to respond to mental health crises — known as 5150 calls — as a way to relieve officer workloads, while offering a less threatening presence to those in crisis. Clinicians could also respond to calls involving homeless individuals, those living with mental illness, substance abuse issues and other situations that might benefit from non-emergency intervention. An additional juvenile specialist will primarily respond to Pleasanton Unified School District sites and within the community as needed for residents under 18.
“I’m really excited about what this program can mean to the community,” said Pleasanton Police Chief David Swing. “The goal is to reduce the number of overall health detentions known as 5150s and to decrease the response of uniformed law enforcement personnel through a coordinated response to homelessness and mental health issues.”
According to the police department, nearly 350 calls from individuals who are potentially a danger to themselves or others are made each year; local patrol officers have less time to invest in other community needs when responding to these urgent, yet non-safety related calls. The department further reported that officers do not have the expertise or immediate access to resources to intervene appropriately in some of these situations, nor the time to dedicate to an in-depth assessment.
“This is a program that has been discussed for many years,” said Vice Mayor Julie Testa. “ I’m very grateful. I’m very excited … While I think this program is an outstanding beginning, I hope this extends to the entire Tri-Valley.”
According to the staff report, a review of three years of data from state records show that most 5150 cases occur between the hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday. With this new intervention program, calls for help would be assigned through police dispatch detailing the level of response necessary and, when appropriate, transferred directly to a clinician.
Comparable adult and juvenile programs have been initiated and met with success in other jurisdictions, including the California cities of Roseville and San Diego, and the State of Oregon. A similar pilot program is currently underway in Santa Clara County.
The anticipated cost of the recommended two-year pilot program is $844,462, which will provide two full-time clinicians, one for adults and another for juveniles, and one part-time temporary program assistant. If the pilot program were successful, the City of Pleasanton could hire clinicians as direct employees or third-party contractors. Bi-annual reports will be presented to the council as the program progresses.
“The well-being of our adults and our children in our community is of the utmost importance,” said Councilmember Valerie Arkin. “I really believe we should not be burdening our police with mental health crisis responses, so having a mental health clinician available will really help … I’m very excited about this program and excited to get it off the ground.”
For more information, visit www.cityofpleasantonca.gov.