Incident is an example of the Sheriff’s Office’s efforts for treatment for someone in a mental health crisis
Deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office helped rescue a person who was found climbing on the hillside under Cold Spring Bridge on Thursday afternoon.
Sheriff’s Department deputies responded to the area near Cold Spring Bridge after receiving reports that someone was “running through the brush” and “behaving erratically” below the structure, Raquel Zick, the Sheriff’s Office public information officer, said. The deputies responded alongside members of the Sheriff’s Co-Response Team, the county’s Search and Rescue team, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and AMR.
After about two hours, the patient was rescued without injury from the hillside around 1 p.m. Thursday and was connected with mental health services, Ms. Zick said.
Thursday’s rescue is an example of the Sheriff’s Office’s efforts to divert someone who is experiencing a crisis away from incarceration and connect them with mental health services when possible.
Currently, the Sheriff’s Office has about three deputies and three clinicians from the county’s Behavioral Wellness Department on its Co-Response Team. Patrol deputies work with the Co-Response Team and call on them to respond whenever a person is displaying behaviors or actions that show they may be in mental distress.
According to Dr. Cherylynn Lee, the behavioral sciences manager at the Sheriff’s Office, the co-response team handled about 1,600 mental health crisis calls out of the 3,000 total received by the department in 2020. Out of those 1,600, only about 11 people ended up in jail, Dr. Lee said.
“The Co-Response Team, their mission is different than the patrol team,” Dr. Lee told the News-Press. She explained that patrol deputies arrive to a call for service with the mission of solving the problem, but sometimes, mental health crises calls last longer than other calls for service and require additional support.
“(The Co-Response Team’s) objective is to solve the problem (and) utilize their skills, expertise and resources for a different objective. They come looking at mental health crisis calls from a slightly different lens in the sense that our purpose is to de-escalate and get (the subject) in treatment if that’s what’s needed.”
“We understand that folks with certain types of mental problems would benefit more from treatment than from staying in the jail for a couple of hours or a couple of days,” Dr. Lee later added.
With the Co-Response Team in place, Dr. Lee said there are now additional tools to solve problems and aid community members experiencing mental health crises.
“It means your brother, your sister, your daughter, or husband, or friend, or roommate or whoever may be suffering from long-lasting mental illness or may be feeling suicidal, that there is a way that they can call 9-1-1 for an emergency response and expect that people showing up are not there just to solve the problem, but are there to be compassionate, empathetic resources to guide that person to where they need to be,” Dr. Lee said.
She also noted that in addition to the co-response team, the Sheriff’s Office and all local law enforcement now have access to the county’s Sobering Center, which was created out of a grant awarded to the Public Defender Office. The Public Defenders, the Sheriff’s Office, Behavioral Wellness and the District Attorney’s Office have partnered on this grant that funds the Sobering Center.
The Sobering Center is a place where law enforcement can take someone to receive services and treatment in lieu of citing them or taking them to jail for minor offenses, according to Dr. Lee.
Dr. Lee added that it’s been an honor to work with the Sheriff’s Office, calling it “the single most rewarding part of working in law enforcement so far.” In her role, she trains all law enforcement in crisis intervention response and supervises the three deputies on the Sheriff’s Office Co-Response Team.
For more information on the Co-Response Team, visit the Sheriff’s Office Youtube channel at youtube.com/user/SBSheriffs/videos for an informational video on the team and its responsibilities.