Stockton wants to move 911 mental health calls from police to crisis teams

Emergency calls in Stockton involving people in mental health crisis could soon be answered by a community mental health team in addition to or instead of the police.

“Many of these calls are a cry for help that is better handled by street medical teams,” city manager Harry Black said in a statement.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, city officials and Community Medical Centers staff unveiled a specially designed van outside Stockton Ballpark for use by Stockton’s new mental health intervention teams.

The teams’ goal is to reduce costs associated with the 911 system by redirecting mental health calls — especially from frequent callers — to a designated unit that would de-escalate people and connect them to services, according to Alfonso Apu, director of behavioral health at the nonprofit Community Medical Centers.

“In addition to managing a crisis and stabilizing someone or de-escalating someone, we want to contact that member of the community within 48 hours, seven days, and within 30 days,” he said.

Alfonso Apu, Community Medical Centers chief behaviorist, will speak during the introduction of Stockton's first pilot mobile crisis intervention response program at a new conference at the Stockton Ballpark in downtown Stockton on Thursday, November 3, 2022. The program, a joint venture between CMC and the City of Stockton, will deal with behavioral issues currently being handled by the police.

A second goal is to “reduce fear or hesitation about calling the police,” Apu said.

Proponents of police reform across the country have argued that police forces are not best suited to handle mental health calls. A 2016 study estimated that up to 50% of fatal encounters with law enforcement involve someone with a mental illness, USA Today reported.

More:A look at efforts to expand the role of mental health professionals in the police force

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