SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco’s Street Crisis Response Team — a team dedicated to responding to 911 and 311 calls regarding people having mental health crises — was launched in November 2020.

The launching marked the first phase of the pilot program, which is part of Breed’s ongoing efforts to create non-law enforcement alternatives for non-violent emergency calls.

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Under the first phase of the program, teams made up of behavioral health and medical professionals were assigned to respond to 911 calls in the city’s troubled Tenderloin neighborhood and focus on calls involving non-violent people experiencing mental health crises.

The teams then connected them to services supported by the city’s Department of Public Health and ensure follow-up care, Breed’s office said.

The team includes behavioral health peer specialists, who are people who have surpassed homelessness, substance use and, or mental health issues and become skilled to help others experiencing such situations, according to Mayor London Breed’s office.

“This program can help us break the cycle that all too often keeps people going in and out of our emergency rooms and our jails. When the Street Crisis Response Team responds to a call for someone in crisis, they’re able to help with compassion and clinical skills to get people the care and support they need,” Breed said. “Changing the way we respond to non-violent calls is going to take works and it’s going to take time. The SCRT is an important first step in our long-term effort change how we respond to people suffering on our streets.”

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Under the program’s first phase, the teams focused their efforts in the Tenderloin Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The city then added more teams as the months have past with six teams in place by March.

“Particularly important is including a team member with lived experience of behavioral health challenges to this service,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “Over time, we will build on what we learn from this first team and be able to connect more people in crisis to trauma-informed care.”

The Street Crisis Response Team pilot program is part of the first phase of implementation of Mental Health SF, the City’s strategic framework for improving the behavioral health response to people experiencing homelessness.

In addition to funding the Street Crisis Response Team, the city’s budget for fiscal years 2020-21 and 2021-22 includes funding to establish an Office of Coordinated Care within the Department of Public Health, increasing behavioral health bed capacity to reduce wait times to access treatment beds, and expanding service hours at the
Behavioral Health Access Center.

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