San Mateo County hopes to change the way law enforcement respond to people in crisis by sending a mental health expert to make calls to police in multiple cities.
The pilot program of calls involving people in a mental health crisis is an attempt to de-escalate and give respondents an alternative to arrest or a trip to the hospital for a mental health suspension.
San Mateo is one of four cities in the county where dispatchers will post a doctor with a police officer if a 911 call appears to be related to a mental health crisis. Once the officer sees the scene is safe, the doctor can help calm the situation and provide services.
Other cities participating in the pilot are Redwood City, Daly City, and South San Francisco.
The county and cities will spend $1.5 million over two years on the pilot program. Stanford University will evaluate the results independently.
Other cities like San Francisco and San Jose have also added mental health response units, and last Friday Palo Alto launched a similar program.