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Shifting Mental Health Responses from Sheriff...But Not the Funds

Board of Supes Approve $12million for a 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Response Program that Does NOT Involve Law Enforcement

by Dr. Corrine McIntosh Sako, PsyD, LMFT


The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on June 10 to approve the $6.5 billion recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22, which includes $12 million to fund a non-law enforcement alternative emergency response to people experiencing mental health crises. This is something that has been simmering since Supervisor Kennedy initially directed County staff to propose alternatives to law enforcement resp​onses to quality of life issues that can be better addressed by mental health professionals during last September’s budget hearings.


(Video Recap)


Chovan Kothari, Sacramento County’s new’ish Health Services director, rolled out the County’s plan for the “Wellness Crisis Response and Cell Center (formerly known as Alternative to 911),” sounding more like when Prince changed his name to a symbol than an actual response program for mental health crises that do not involve law enforcement.

Steps the County says they’ve taken since their last presentation to the Supes back in March:

  • Figuring out how to get paid by the state and how to use ARPA money instead of shifting funds from law enforcement

  • Completed ‘review of models, best practices, and discussion with other counties’ except for the counties like Contra Costa and Alameda that are actually working on their own Alternative to Law Enforcement programs

  • They are ‘conducting ongoing meetings with Sacramento County law enforcement partners to determine strategies for coordination’ .… except they neglected to consult with emergency medical and fire services

  • And they snuck in a “community stakeholder session” the day before the budget hearing in order to check the community engagement box



The Crisis Response Program will have 3 main components:

  • A 24/7 Crisis Call Center staffed by mental health counselors, funded either by funds generated by AB 988 (the Miles Hall Lifeline Act) if passed in the State, or by the County if AB 988 does not get approved, to be in effect by July 2022

  • A Mobile Field Response unit comprising a two-member team - a mental health counselor and a peer support specialist, to roll out by July 2022. There will be 8 teams total and 5 fleet vehicles will be included. The County is hoping to use American Rescue Plan Act funding for this component of the program, which will be available for 5 years and includes up to 85% reimbursement

  • The Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic, operated by Turning Point Community Programs which currently has limited hours, will be expanded to operate 24/7 by January 2022. Funding for this part will come from existing Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Innovation funds in addition to Medi-Cal billing for Medi-Cal eligible folxs served.

Did you notice what’s missing? Law enforcement’s duties are being transferred but their funds are not …

If we’re shifting responsibilities away from law enforcement, the money needs to shift with it. Don’t increase the sheriff budget - give it to public health & behavioral health so that they can do the jobs that the community wants them to do. - Community Member

“There’s a ‘No Wrong Door’ Approach, except if you’re in the City of Sacramento.” - Supervisor Nottoli


The Response Program formerly known as Alternatives to 911 will serve all areas of the county, including the 7 incorporated cities and the unincorporated areas. This program will not service residents in the city of Sacramento since they are developing their own model through the Department of Community Response. You mean to tell me that if I experience a mental health crisis in the City of Sacramento, the response I receive is going to be different from the response I would receive if my mental health emergency occurred in the County? This doesn’t happen for people experiencing cardiac emergencies so why is mental health different?


With the approved budget, the County will now start working on expanding the operating hours of the Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic to have 24/7 service starting January 2022. They will also work with partners to develop coordination strategies while building out the mobile response teams and call center, to have service starting July 2022. They plan to start recruiting for administration staff and management team; however, it was mentioned that there is a mental health workforce shortage so they will need to do intensive outreach and recruitment to slowly build up to the 55 full time employment positions included in the budget.


"I don’t see how it can dissect from 911. We need to know about people’s past records, public safety needs to be an integral part." - Supervisor Frost


“This is a great program, I’m very very proud of Sac County that we’re setting this up – I wish it was more associated with law enforcement, I think that would probably make it more effective, frankly … but I understand the sensitivity around that issue.” - Supervisor Desmond


“Keep your foot on the gas pedal, understanding that red lights do come up” - Supervisor Kennedy’s feedback to County Health staff


“And because they’re not connected to law enforcement, they can’t run through those red lights…” - Supervisor Desmond reminding us that he used to be a highway patrol officer


This is a Community program, not a County program

Next steps for the community is to hold the County accountable to incorporating what the community needs this program to be into its design. Last fall, the County held two “listening sessions” and an online community input survey. 568 people participated and made the following recommendations:

  • Response teams should consist of mental health clinicians, peers with lived experience, social workers, and medical clinicians

  • Expertise should use de-escalation tactics, and be trauma-informed, behavioral health-centered, and responsive to race, culture, gender, and disability

  • Crisis services must include housing and shelter, mental health assessment and services, food, water, and other survival needs, medical care and medication, and crisis stabilization and respite centers

  • An independent advisory board to provide ongoing monitoring and evaluation for transparency and accountability

The County Mental Health Board will form a Community Advisory Committee to serve as the advisory board and will provide ongoing oversight of program implementation. In addition to Mental Health Board Members, community members will be added to the committee as voting members. Voting members will be able to vote on recommendations that are provided to the Mental Health Board, which can then be voted on and provided to the Board of Supervisors. While this Committee takes shape, the County will host “Community Stakeholder Workgroups” to collect community feedback on program design, partnerships, marketing of the program, etc.


Ways to Get Involved:

  • Attend the next Community Stakeholder Workgroup hosted by the County. The next meeting will be posted here once it is scheduled. You can also follow @DrCorrine or @Mobilize4MentalHealth on IG to stay up-to-date

  • There are currently 4 vacant seats on the Mental Health Board. You can apply for appointment if you meet one of the following four criteria:

  • Live in District 2 and are a family member of someone who has been a consumer of county mental health services

  • Live in District 4 and have a public interest in county mental health service delivery

  • Live in District 4 and have been a consumer of county mental health services

  • Live in District 5 and have been a consumer of mental health services

  • If you’re interested, reach out to Jason Richards (916) 875-6482, richardsja@saccounty.net


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