On Wednesday, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments held its official launch of SGV CARE – Crisis Response and Engagement. Two members of mobile mental health crisis teams will respond to calls for help in Arcadia, San Marino, South Pasadena and Montebello.
The teams are staffed by licensed clinicians and certified Peer Support Specialists from the Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse of Los Angeles (LA CADA – the same organization that provides residential outreach services to the City of Alhambra).
During the SGV CARE pilot project, professionals are on call 40 hours per week in Arcadia, San Marino and South Pasadena (Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri 8am to 6pm) and 20 hours per week in Montebello (Mon and Hour 8 morning-6 p.m.). They accompany police officers or firefighters in their own “alternative crisis vans”.
The program has been active since the summer. SBLA spoke with two team members, Jackalyn Jung and Jordan Guitron, about what a day on the job is like.
“I would say something similar to how emergency physicians are always on standby and ready to go when they get an emergency call… It’s the same thing for us when we get an emergency call that involves mental health. We are ready and at the location of the call within 10 minutes,” says Jung.
Guitron himself is an EMT with five years of experience, including a FEMA deployment to New York at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Jung is an Associate Clinical Social Worker on her way to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Together, they serve Arcadia, San Marino and South Pasadena, while another team takes in Montebello.
What crises do they respond to? “A lot of times this can look like—but not all the time—like someone withdrawing from a drug or withdrawing from it, or just generally experiencing suicidal thoughts and homicidal thoughts and ideas,” says Jung.
Guitron adds, “It can even go so far as to make a person severely disabled, so that’s why you have the clinician here available to write a 5150 hold [72 hour involuntary psychiatric hospitalization] or 5585 [for minors] depending on the age of the client.” Guitron says that someone who is “severely impaired” is “someone who is unable to take care of themselves, such as eating, bathing, cleaning themselves.”
All calls come to SGV CARE from 911 calls forwarded by their partner agencies (local police and fire departments). So far, Jung says, “I think the calls we’ve answered have been great; they are exactly what this program is implemented for. They were clients struggling with mental health issues and we were there to de-escalate the situation, assess where their head was at right now, see if they needed further mental health assessment […] They [the police] will transfer clients to the hospital. We’ll follow right behind them, but since we’re the ones writing the hold, we’ll be with the customer making sure they’re safe. After they are discharged from the hospital. We make sure they are connected to continuing care services.”
Jung adds: “We want to make this a 24-hour service because people can be in crisis at any time of the day or night. So eventually, hopefully, we’ll get there. But for now it works.”
SGVCOG President and Monrovia Mayor Becky Shevlin says that’s the goal. Shevlin also noted that the mobile crisis response program will receive twelve months of free technical assistance from Harvard Kennedy School’s Laboratory for Government Effectiveness.
Funding for the pilot comes from Measure H, and during the press conference, California State Sen. Anthony Portantino (SD-25) presented a massive check for $850,000 from the state’s 2022-2023 budget.
“This program is going to save someone’s life,” Portantino said. “When 44 percent of our teenagers feel sad, we need to do something about it. When the homelessness crisis rages, we need to do something about it. When the opioid crisis rages on, we have to do something about it… And this is local government saying, ‘we’re going to take these reins and do something.’
SBLA San Gabriel Valley coverage, including this article and SGV Connect, is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line stations through the Foothills and the Commuter Express traveling to the heart of downtown LA About to plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Transit in front of the mountain. Going to good places.’
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