The County of Santa Barbara just secured a $2.1 million grant to fund two new “co-response” teams in addition to the one that’s been operating for the past year. Co-response is the term used when law enforcement officers and mental-health case workers go out on patrol together, and the new grant will provide two Sheriff’s Office deputies with 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training — designed to teach them de-escalation skills for dealing with people with mental illnesses — and team them up with two acute-care caseworkers in the Department of Behavioral Wellness.
The program was started as a test program a year ago with only the whisper of a prayer for future funding. The sheriff’s only co-response team initially went out only one day every other week and built from there.
Calls for service involving mentally ill subjects typically take deputies nearly three times longer. Co-response teams can relieve responding deputies, allowing them to pursue more traditional patrol functions.
Despite the acknowledged utility of the program, the program nearly died early this year because of funding and staffing issues. Mental-health advocates pitched a fit, and the supervisors provided just enough funding to keep the program afloat pending a successful grant application this spring.
This new grant will allow the program to increase from one to three such teams. One will be deployed in North County. They’re not expected to become operational, however, for another couple of months.
To date, the co-response team has responded to 355 in-progress calls and initiated another 369. Of those, only seven resulted in arrests. In 59 cases, they found the subject presented an imminent threat to self or others and was placed on an involuntary three-day 5150 hold; 53 were placed on a voluntary 5150 hold, and 57 were taken to a crisis hub.