Huntington Beach launched its new mobile crisis response team on Sept. 16, a first for the city, which will help those battling tough mental illnesses to get mental health help and rely less on law enforcement to intervene.
Known as Be Well Orange County, the mobile crisis unit consists of a large van and two crisis counselors who will deliver in-community assessment and stabilization to residents with mental health and substance abuse challenges.
“In Huntington Beach, our dispatch center receives nearly 15,000 calls annually for mental health services. It’s become clear that our City needs to become a part of the solution,” Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said in a statement.
“Huntington Beach has taken the bold step to be the first city in Orange County to provide mobile response units that will deliver immediate mental health services throughout the community. There’s nothing more important than supporting the health and well-being of our residents, and we’re committed to walking alongside them through this new program.”
The program seeks to serve as an addition to current mental health services offered to residents by the city, rather than duplicating current ones.
The mobile crisis response team will help alleviate reliance on the police department in an effort to allow police to focus more on active crime prevention, proactive law enforcement, and other quality-of-life issues. Additionally, the freed-up time with law enforcement will allow officers to be more readily available for urgent in-progress calls.
As a whole, the program will help with nonemergency and nonmedical situations, including medical health challenges, suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol use and addiction, nonviolent domestic issues and disputes, welfare checks, death notifications, public assistance (including lack of basic needs, failure to conduct basic self-hygiene, failure to thrive), as well as homelessness in collaboration with the Huntington Beach Homeless Task Force.
Aside from mental health help, the Be Well OC program will also give residents referrals, transportation to services, and additional follow-up support and case management.
The program will be available 12 hours per day, seven days a week, with the city planning to extend the service to 24-hour coverage by wintertime.
When an individual calls 911 or the nonemergency police line, the dispatcher will direct the call and deploy the Be Well OC team when they are available. If the police or fire department are on scene at an incident, they will also be able to request the team for specific help with mental health.
“One in five adults experience a mental health challenge every year. For many, it’s hard to find the right help at the right time in the right place,” CEO of Be Well OC, Marshall Moncrief, said in a statement.
“This program is designed to bring the right support, when it’s needed, directly to the person in need. This will improve outcomes for the community and support law enforcement and [emergency medical services] so they can focus on calls where they are needed most. A better experience for everyone while lowering costs.”