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1925 - By letter, Wyatt Earp beseeches his friend William S. Hart to portray him in a movie, to correct the "lies about me." Hart never did. [story]
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The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced on May 26 they have entered into an agreement for Mental Health to pilot the provision of comprehensive crisis response services to individuals experiencing mental health crises while onboard Metro vehicles or at Metro stations.

As part of this pilot Mental Health will staff Metro-dedicated psychiatric mobile response teams consisting of at least one licensed mental health clinician and one other mental health professional or paraprofessional, co-response teams consisting of one clinician and one law enforcement officer trained in mental health crisis response and community ambassador network teams consisting of outreach and engagement staff.

Once assigned, Mental Health and Metro will work together to deploy these teams where needed within distinct areas of the Metro system to de-escalate crises, provide linkage to appropriate mental health services and educate the community.

Mental Health will provide mental health training to Metro staff county-wide and will also commission a study to assess and help guide the program as it is implemented.

“Throughout our communities, we see the impacts of a growing mental health crisis, and our Metro buses and rail cars are no exception,” said Metro Board Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who authored a motion in January of this year to implement critical mental health support and connections to resources including housing on Metro’s transit system. “Many of our residents, especially our essential workers, depend on Metro to get to and from work. We owe it to them to ensure their safety while also providing a compassionate approach to individuals in crisis. That is why I authored the motion to facilitate a partnership between our Department of Mental Health and Metro, and today we formalize that agreement. This will enable the county to deploy mobile crisis response teams to provide services and resources to those in crisis on our Metro lines and put forward a model of how we can utilize a care first approach for residents in need.”

Psychiatric mobile response, co-response, and community ambassador network teams are all existing LACDMH services that have proven to be effective for crisis intervention, service linkage, and community outreach in other field-based settings throughout L.A. County.

“Anyone who has taken Metro knows there is a mental health crisis on our transit system,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who authored the October 2021 motion to initiate talks between the Department of Mental Health and Metro. “With this new agreement, our Department of Mental Health will place teams of trained mental health professionals on our buses and trains so that they can respond to people in crisis, de-escalate potentially dangerous situations, and connect people with the long-term treatment and support they need.”

“This novel agreement heralds the creation of a powerful, collaborative partnership between Mental Health and Metro that will allow us to apply multiple approaches to improve community safety and increase access to services,” said Jonathan Sherin, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Mental Health. “At the end of the day, this mutual commitment will help us realize a better transportation system and at the same time triage those in need to relevant resources including behavioral health treatment and housing.”

Mental Health will work with Metro Transit Security to identify “hotspots” with high need for crisis response and to provide crisis intervention and de-escalation skills training to Metro’s security staff. Mental Health and Metro will also continually assess and refine the program utilizing its own research, national industry best practices from other transportation and crisis response agencies and stakeholder feedback to optimize the program’s effectiveness in maintaining public safety while diverting individuals in crisis to appropriate treatment.

“This partnership allows us to take a critical step toward assisting those facing mental health crises on our system, which is part of a larger focus on public safety across Metro,” said Metro CEO Stephanie N. Wiggins. “The agreement enables us to tap additional resources to respond quickly to those in crisis with field-based mental health services, which means law enforcement is not the first responder. We believe this is an important tactic in our strategy to create a more comprehensive community-oriented model for ensuring the safety and security of our transit riders.”

Under the signed agreement, this partnership between Mental Health and Metro will be ongoing for three years with the option to renew on an annual basis. Mental Health and Metro will conduct an initial needs assessment study to determine service, coverage and capacity needs prior to assigning response and outreach teams for this pilot.

For more information about visit Alternative Crisis Response.

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