San Mateo police chief unveils new approach to mental illness
San Mateo’s police chief this week unveiled new policies and training programs aimed at enhancing his department’s response to mental health crises.
The San Mateo Police Department is working to acquire its own licensed mental health clinician to respond to calls for service, Police Chief Ed Barberini said during a City Council meeting Tuesday.
Two new training programs, including one for interacting with those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia and another on “mindfulness and resiliency” are also in the works, he said.
The department is working with the county’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services to procure the clinician, who would be available to respond for service along with police officers during peak call hours.
“We see tremendous value in this both in the manner in which calls are handled and for immediate follow-up in hopefully reducing the calls for service we receive involving folks suffering some type of crisis or mental health issue in the field,” Barberini said.
Barberini said the current approach in which officers respond to the same mental health crises, deal with the immediate situation and move on to the next call “doesn’t close the loop.”
“If we have a mental health clinician, that level of expertise by that clinician combined with the police officers’ familiarity and ability to keep the situation safe we think will result in a more
effective and I think exciting way we can deal with these issues,” Barberini said. “We can get out there in a timely manner and we can leverage the experience and expertise of both disciplines to be pretty effective.”
Drawing a contrast to the existing countywide San Mateo Assessment and Referral Team (SMART), Barberini said the clinician will only available more often in part because he or she will only be working in San Mateo. The clinician will also attend briefings and provide more expertise than SMART medics, he said.
Councilmembers and residents applauded the new approach.
“I feel like what you’re presenting to us is a reflection of really good listening and really pushing the boundaries of best practices,” said Councilwoman Amourence Lee. [Read full article]