South San Francisco, CA January 14, 2021 Press Release
City partners with four other local jurisdictions and County to pilot a Community Wellness and Crisis Response Team program
At last night’s South San Francisco City Council meeting, the City Council unanimously approved the creation of the Community Wellness and Crisis Response Team (CWCRT) pilot program to provide improved emergency response to individuals experiencing behavior health crises. The pilot program will add a mental health clinician within the South San Francisco Police Department, and is a partnership between the police departments of South San Francisco, Redwood City, Daly City, and the City of San Mateo, along with San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS).
“Last June, Mayor Richard Garbarino established the Commission on Racial and Social Equity in South San Francisco and this is one step in the right direction to addressing the many goals of the Commission,” said current South San Francisco Mayor Mark Addiego.
The Commission recognizes that individuals experiencing a mental health crisis are often suffering from a multitude of traumatic experiences, including but not limited to racism, discrimination, poverty, homelessness, abuse, and/or substance use. The CWCRT collaboration would be a buffer between the individual in crisis and the justice system while connecting them to relevant mental health services.
“We are excited to participate in this program and while our officers receive a variety of training to deal with mental health crises, we also realize having a certified professional in the mental health arena will only better enable us to effectively handle these situations,” said South San Francisco Police Chief Jeff Azzopardi.
South San Francisco police officers receive mental health training in the Police Academy, which includes: Victimology and Crisis Intervention, Person with Mental/Physical Disabilities, and Cultural Diversity and Discrimination. In addition, they also receive training on Crisis Intervention, Tactical Communications, and Crisis Negotiations. Annually, the South San Francisco Police Department (SSFPD) responds to approximately 360 calls that involve someone with a connection to mental illness. “The addition of a mental health clinician to our emergency response team will help us better support mentally ill individuals and their families in crisis, as well as the community,” adds Chief Azzopardi.
How the Program Works
The CWCRT program will embed a BHRS clinician within the SSFPD. The clinician will partner with officers and related service providers to address as many incidents as possible and will respond in tandem with SSFPD officers to incidents involving behavioral health crises. The clinician will also provide on-going training to the SSFPD in the area of behavioral health, crisis response, and de-escalation.
BHRS will hire four appropriate mental health clinicians and assign one to each of the four cities in the pilot program, which is expected to be fully staffed and operational by Spring 2021. In South San Francisco, it is anticipated that the BHRS clinician schedule will be Monday through Friday during the day/swing shifts.
“This is an important pilot our City is participating in and it will be imperative that we measure and report regularly its effectiveness in achieving identified outcomes, which include reduced use of public safety and emergency services, and improved residential and behavioral health stability,” said Mayor Addiego. To accomplish this, the County and the four cities have partnered with the John W. Gardner Center of Stanford University, which will conduct regular data analysis to determine the program’s effects, assess outcomes, and consider appropriate adjustments.
The pilot program will run for two years, at which time all parties will determine if the program should continue.