"Alternatives to 911 Mean Alternatives to Law Enforcement"
Taking steps to make sure law enforcement don't kill peeps experiencing a mental health crisis (Big shout out to Dr. Corrine McIntosh-Sako for this critical recap)
(display in front of Board of Supervisors building)
Tell Us What Happened, Sis...
A 4 hour meeting amongst 5 county supervisors & 3 county executives
1-1/2hours of public comment from concerned community members
A petition with over 520 signatures
A coalition of over 25 health professionals, community members, & social justice organizations
Dyaaam, that's Wzup
The Sacramento Board of Supervisors heard a presentation from Bruce Wagstaff, the Deputy County Executive for Social Services, & Jim Hunt, the Acting Director of Health Services, regarding the proposed implementation of Mental Health Crisis Response System. During the last BOS meeting on this issue on Feb 24, supervisors directed staff to come up with cost estimates for a seven-days-a-week program at 8 hours a day, 16 hours a day, & 24 hours a day. They were also directed to talk to police chiefs and other officials in the cities that lay inside Sacramento County, as they said they were not allowed an opportunity to give their input.
But why tho? 🙄
Instead of relying on the wealth of feedback from some of the realest subject matter experts in Sac county – the 568 community members who participated in the community listening sessions – county staff sought advisement on program implementation instead from law enforcement and from an international consulting firm on mental health and substance use crisis service design delivery that has implemented programs in more conservative states.
It did seem as if county staff thought they were being asked to reinvent the wheel - other successful non-law enforcement mental health crisis response programs, such as CAHOOTS & the Denver STAR program – were not included in their presentation.
As one public commenter clearly stated: “Why are Jim Hunt & County DHS staff taking any cues on 911 alternatives from deep red states like Arizona, Texas, & Georgia?”
Staff held up the CRISIS NOW program that currently operates in Maricopa County, Arizona as a model for a mental health crisis response program here in Sac & they shared the program’s three main components that they claim are evidence-based: a call center, mobile response teams, & a crisis care clinic.
There are 3 options for a call center:
1) A stand-alone system with a unique phone number (what the community has been demanding), using existing 911 dispatch centers (which the Sheriff does not want, as apparently his dispatchers aren’t capable of handling an increase in workload - but city police chiefs prefer this option),
2) A hybrid model that stations clinicians in existing 911 centers (again, the Sheriff does not want this). The mobile response team would primarily consist of unlicensed, fresh-out-of-graduate-school clinicians that would be accruing clinical hours (and therefore would receive supervision from a licensed mental health professional that would not be present at the time of the crisis response) & a peer specialist.
3) The third component of the CRISIS NOW model is a crisis care clinic where persons who need immediate services can be taken 24 hours a day. County staff proposed expanding the current Urgent Care Clinic that is located on the same campus as the Mental Health Treatment Center (which currently operates from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.) to a 24/7 facility.
County staff shared that the police chiefs they consulted prefer to see the mental health crisis program implemented as a pilot in one or more of the smaller Sheriff’s districts in the unincorporated area or a similar area in an incorporated city. While this proposal seemed to lean heavily toward a 24/7 service delivery model, it failed to incorporate other pertinent demands from the community.
We beefing now cuz there was no mention of an independent advisory board made up for the real stakeholders here - the community members. There was barely mention of peer support specialists being the main responders to mental health crisis & quality of life calls. A peer support specialist is someone who shares the tools, skills, and information they have learned to transform their own life with individuals going through similar struggles. Instead, county proposed their plans to use hire individuals fresh out of school with not much experience let alone expertise or a license to practice as the first responders to a mental health crisis. Not only is this a potential liability for the county as it is employing professionals with not much real-world clinical experience to crisis calls but more importantly it is also providing sub-standard care to those most at-risk & marginalized.
So Where Da Money to Fund This Coming From, Sis?
Welllll... instead of examining whether the $4 million surplus from the sheriffs budget could be used to fund the implementation of this program, county staff is counting on using federal funds attached to a COVID relief act [SAY WHAAAT?, Did they forget the time to gave our COVID coiiiines to the Sheriff?] and by crossing their fingers that a AB 988, also known as the Miles Hall Lifeline Act, will be approved by state legislature so they can dip into the attached state funding. If approved, AB 988 will create a new three-digit phone line, 988, for suicide prevention and immediate, localized emergency response for individuals in mental health crisis by trained mental health professionals.
FYI, Miles Hall was a 23-year-old Black man killed by the Walnut Creek police during a mental health crisis after his family & neighbors called 911 asking for help. One public commenter reminded the Board of the similar tragic tales that have occurred here in Sacramento with Mikel McIntyre, Darell Richards, Gabby Nevarez, Joseph Mann, Dazion Flenaugh, Maurice Holley … until Supervisor Sue Frost disconnected the call after the commenter posed the question, “Are you going to cut me off when I’m speaking about the dead black lives?”
It is noteworthy that Supervisor Kennedy seemed to take a firmer stand for this issue, which he originally advocated for back in November. He was the only person who addressed whether the funds that were set aside for a new jail annex could be used to roll out this program. Ann Edwards, the Acting County Executive sitting in the seat once occupied by Nav Gill, shot down that proposition by stating the funds are needed to meet consent decree requirements for ADA compliance and for significantly reducing the jail population.
Supervisor Kennedy also made mention of the fact that since a mental health crisis response program would alleviate some of the sheriff department’s workload, it makes sense to look at using sheriff department dollars. He may have even had a Freudian slip when he said, “The Sheriff’s Department is a huge drain - uh, not a huge drain, a huge part of our general fund - why not look at the Sheriff’s Department?” He even went on to say that public safety is too narrowly defined, that this program would not be taken away from public safety but actually increasing public safety, and that we need to look at public safety a
However, on brand, Supervisor Sue Frost did not. She was the only person in the meeting who was not wearing a mask - as multiple public commenters pointed out & implored her to serve as a role model by masking up. And when she opened the public comment period by taking the off-agenda callers first, she replied, “I’m out of sorts this morning, the sunshine got to me.”
Supervisor Nottoli was the biggest ally during this meeting. He stressed that an independent advisory board is needed and that it needs to be community members on that board to ensure accountability and oversight. He cautioned the Board & staff from being overly attached on federal funding, as that source is not sustainable - those dollars will eventually run out and continuing funds will be needed. He likes the idea of expanding the existing urgent crisis clinic to 24/7 and he mentioned that he sees the connection between that program having been defunded and more individuals in crisis being taken to hospital emergency departments and jail instead of getting the help they need. He also stressed the importance of having this program be county-wide, not in bits and pieces throughout the county as law enforcement would prefer. And he highlighted the urgency around this issue: “These are real people, real families, real lifes involved.”
Supervisor Serna and Supervisor Desmond were in support of Supervisor Nottoli’s sentiments.
So Tell us Sis, What's Next?
Although it was not decided if there would be an additional meeting or workshop in the near future, it was communicated that the Board of Supervisors would hear about this program again in June during the Budget Recommendation process to vote on its funding, with plans for a confirmed budget in September. In the meantime, county staff was directed to continue exploring the startup of a separate call center that is a different number than 911 and to calculate the total cost of this program with a separate call center and with the 24/7 expansion of the Urgent Crisis Clinic.
What Else Can folxs Do?
To help pass the Miles Hall Lifeline Act, AB 988, contact your State Representatives to let them know why you support AB 988. State your name and address and identify yourself as the legislator’s constituent. Briefly state you are calling in support of AB 988. Have your thoughts organized in advance to help you to keep the call brief and to the point. It is also very helpful to share how the issue affects you personally. More information, including a letter template & how to find out who your state representatives are, is found here: https://www.justiceformileshall.org/ab-988
If you are interested in signing on the petition demanding the Board of Supervisors fund this program to operate 24/7, include an independent advisory board, not use funding from already-strained health departments, and to remove law enforcement completely from the equation, visit this link: http://bit.ly/Alt911Petition
If you are interested in sending an email to your Board Supervisor regarding these demands for this program, visit the Talking Points Toolkit: http://bit.ly/3-30Toolkit
If you don’t know who your Supervisor is, find them here: https://www.saccounty.net/SupervisorLookUp/Pages/default.aspx
And if you’re interested in having your group or organization link up with the Mobilize 4 Mental Health coalition, contact Dr. Corrine at (916) 202-1890, email@example.com, or @drcorrine on IG.
“It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” - Jiddu Krishnamurti