Supplemental County Budget Expands “Mental Evaluation Teams” and Funds a 24-hour Mental Health “Triage Help Desk”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger praised County CEO Sachi Hamai on a fiscally-prudent Supplemental Budget which fortifies the county’s Rainy Day fund, expands the number of Mental Evaluation Teams (MET) from 15 to 23, and fully funds a 24-hour triage desk.

“This is a responsible budget that saves for the future and funds a full complement of multi-disciplinary Mental Evaluation Teams who provide a highly-effective approach to improve outcomes in situations where law enforcement must interface with individuals suffering from mental illness,” said Supervisor Barger.  “Along with a 24-hour triage desk, this vital program will help law enforcement in its effort to avoid use of deadly force, protect the public and provide access to treatment for individuals in crisis — rather than incarceration.”

The expansion of the teams is in response to a motion by Supervisor Barger soon after taking office in January.  The teams consist of a mental health clinician paired with a Sheriff’s Deputy who respond to emergency calls involving psychiatric crisis or critical incidents and provide immediate assistance to those in need.  Los Angeles County was the first in the nation to develop co-response teams as a pilot program in the early 1990s.  Since MET service began in January, 1993, the Department of Mental Health has partnered with 35 law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department.

“In situations where minor crimes are driven by mental illness, rather than criminal tendencies, diversion into treatment – including psychiatric hospitalization – is a more effective response and leads to better outcomes,” Barger added.

The teams responded to 1,154 calls for service during FY2015-2016.  Of these calls, 64% resulted in hospitalizations for mental health treatment and less than 1% resulted in an arrest proving that these teams reduce adverse outcomes and prioritize treatment over incarceration.

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