San Mateo County is hoping to change how law enforcement responds to people in crisis by sending a mental health expert on calls with police in multiple cities.
The pilot program for calls involving people experiencing a mental health crisis is an effort to de-escalate and give responders an alternative to an arrest or a trip to the hospital for a mental health hold.
San Mateo is one of four cities in the county where dispatchers will deploy a clinician along with a police officer if it seems the 911 call is related to a mental health crisis. Once the officer deems the scene safe, the clinician can help de-escalate the situation and provide services.
The other cities participating in the pilot program are Redwood City, Daly City and South San Francisco.
The county and cities will spend $1.5 million over two years on the pilot program. Stanford University will independently evaluate the results.
Other cities such as San Francisco and San Jose also have added mental health response units, and last Friday, Palo Alto launched a similar program.