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A Win is a Win… Sort of?

In June of 2021 the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a new 24/7 mental health crisis response program with the hopes that it would be ready and operational no later than July 2022. This program is now known as the Community Wellness Response Team (CWRT).

Today's recap covers the updates given by Sac County's Behavioral Health Services at the 3/14/23 CWRT Advisory Committee meeting. Find the meeting agenda here.

BONUS CONTENT: Check out SJPC's recent Chit-Chat episode on the gaps within our current crisis response system for more conversation on this issue.

According to Sacramento County, the county Behavioral Health Services (BHS) has ‘dedicated’ the entirety of last year to promoting this new 24/7 crisis response team in an effort to recruit, hire and onboard 50 full-time employees. Some of the efforts presented by the county can be found in the slide below (see full slide deck here).

According to the county this response team, known as the Community Wellness Response Team, will offer community-based intervention to individuals experiencing mental health crises (at home, work, etc.) and the main objectives of the CWRT is to provide rapid response, assess the individual, and resolve crisis situations. Despite the County’s ‘effort’, not enough candidates were recruited in order to staff the 11 teams needed for the CWRT.

So where does that leave us as a community looking to improve the faults in our current 9-1-1 response?

At the 3/14 meeting, the CWRT Advisory Committee (formally known as the Wellness Crisis Call Center Response Program Advisory Committee) came together to finally answer this question. After the County basically admitted that they were unable to recruit and hire enough people to create 11 response teams for the CWRT, they presented a plan to “leverage existing contracts” with Bay Area Community Services (BACS) and bring them in as partners.

The reasoning behind bringing in BACS is that they not only provide higher wages and better benefits, but they are also a community organization and Sacramento County feels confident that they will be able to provide the remaining 6 teams needed to complete the CWRT (Sacramento County currently has almost 5 teams). With that being said, they also decided during this meeting that it would make no sense to have a separate call center for this team, and have partnered with Wellspace Health's call center for '988' to be the number folks call when in crisis or on behalf of someone else in crisis.

This partnership will now be considered the CWRT Collaborative Partnership (partners included: Wellspace 988 Life Line 24/7 Behavioral Crisis Life Line, County BHS, and BACS) with the goal to

Provide one seamless response to the community

According to the presentation, Wellspace 988 Life line will provide 24/7 365 days phone/text/chat services to people of all ages who reside in Sacramento County, and the Sac County BHS & BACs will provide 24/7 365 days in-person dispatch and response for people of all ages who reside in Sacramento County. The County will be using Behavioral Health Link Software (BHL) in order to submit response referrals to dispatch and deployment of response teams. More on the BHL and the CWRT process can be found in the slides below.

Listen, it’s not that we think the plan presented isn’t functional. But it's literally just a plan. When thinking about the faults in our 911 system and how they have affected our community (one of the many names, Jaime Naranjo, pops up when thinking about this topic ), the plan presented left too many questions unanswered and once again put convenience above community needs.

Why is it that when the County was looking for community based organizations for partnerships they took their business to the bay to ‘leverage existing contracts’ instead of consulting dedicated Sacramento organizations already doing this work?

What happened to community led & community driven?! This presentation also did not touch at all on what role law enforcement has with this crisis response team? What happens if a community member only knows to call 911? Will they be redirected to 988 and the CRWT? The community needs answers!

This presentation definitely did NOT answer the most pressing questions. The CRWT was created with the goal (from community input sessions) to de-escalate crises, provide linkage to accessible and affordable mental health resources, offer a response team that does not include include law enforcement staffing, ensure the model is community based, and decrease the criminalization of mental health and homelessness. YET, none of these goals were discussed and many questions were left unanswered.

We'll work to keep you all updated on progress related to implementing the CWRT!

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