To help prevent use-of-force incidents and improve outcomes for individuals with mental health issues, the Board of Supervisors will vote on a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to expand the utilization of Mental Evaluation Teams at their regular meeting Tuesday.
MET teams consist of a mental health clinician paired with a law enforcement officer who respond to emergency calls involving psychiatric crisis or critical incidents and provide immediate assistance to those in need.
“Proactive engagement that includes a mental health expert will reduce confrontations, and provide access to treatment for individuals in crisis that may lead to a full recovery,” said Barger. “Expanding this vital program will also help law enforcement in its effort to avoid violent incidents, protect the public and save lives.”
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, to develop more than which 100 co-response teams.
If approved by the Board of Supervisors, Barger’s motion, co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, will ensure the continuity and stability of the MET teams within the County with an expansion of the program, the establishment of a triage help desk and a report on regional outcomes.
MET 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.
Recent publicized reports describing confrontations between law enforcement personnel and individuals with untreated mental illness reveals the severity of the problem. Although most interactions between law enforcement and those with mental illness end peacefully, it is estimated that 10% of law enforcement calls involve individuals who are mentally ill — and such interactions carry a high risk. 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.