02 Oct County Crisis Response Team Expanding Services
By Samantha Kennedy
The Contra Costa County crisis response team is expanding some of its services, the Richmond City Council learned at its Sept. 26 meeting. The information came as county staff made a presentation about how behavioral health crises are responded to with the A3 team.
The A3 — Anyone Anywhere Anytime — program provides emergency response across the county. Response is based on how urgent A3 deems a call. Less urgent calls often address requests for long-term support, such as housing and follow-up mental healthcare.
The more urgent calls often require an in-person response. If there are safety concerns, law enforcement responds alongside A3 staff.
“It’s such a huge need to have infrastructure for behavioral health services,” council member Doria Robinson said.
Suzanne Tavano, director of Contra Costa Behavioral Health, said less urgent calls, classified as level 1, allow A3 to intervene before the crisis can escalate.
“The person is experiencing some level of crisis,” Tavano said. “But there’s an intervention that doesn’t necessarily mean a mental health or substance use intervention, but assisting them in what is needed and adding those supportive services.”
The council heard that A3 has been expanding its mobile response team of clinicians and peer support specialists as well as increasing response for county youth and providing training for law enforcement. With increased service hours, the goal is to provide 24/7 service in January 2024.
Council member Claudia Jimenez said a recent experience with A3 demonstrated the need for increased service. When Jimenez called after midnight about a man repeatedly honking his horn in front of her house, the dispatcher told her A3 does not respond to those types of calls. The dispatcher said these calls were referred to Richmond Police.
Tavano said dispatchers would answer calls after midnight but not send anyone out to respond in person.
“I was calling A3 because I thought we didn’t need a police response to that situation,” Jimenez said. “We need another response to the situation.”
Jimenez said another measure like Richmond’s Community Crisis Response Program is even more vital in situations that A3 will not respond to because a mental health crisis is not identified. The Community Crisis Response Program, in addition to responding to mental health crises like A3, will also respond to non-violent/non-felony calls for service once implemented.
Between July and September of this year, there were nearly 1,000 calls for service countywide. Of the calls, A3 determined that 26% involved a mental health crisis. Over half of mental health crisis calls required an in-person response. Response for all other calls offered services mostly over the phone or virtually, with about only 17% of calls requiring a visit. In Richmond, 25% of calls required an in-person response, the council learned.
A majority of calls for service came from Antioch, Concord and Richmond in 2022. If calls require follow-up care, callers can be referred to Contra Costa Health sites or health providers who partner with the county.
But with the vast majority of requests for service being handled over the phone, A3 officials say having a centralized place to get help is important.
“Having a place to go is really critical,” Anna Roth, CEO of Contra Costa Health, said. Contra Costa Health recognizes that people “need a place to go anytime.” Additional facilities to house more services are something A3 is interested in doing.
Current A3 facilities include the Miles Hall Crisis Call Center and county and community centers where residents can get services. The Behavioral Health Wellness Campus, which houses the call center, will undergo renovations in 2024 to create a nonemergency mental and behavioral health facility.
Roth said programs like A3 are not meant to replace local police efforts but to provide services for behavioral health crises in ways that police cannot.
Contra Costa residents can get help from A3 by calling 844-844-5544, 988 or 911 between 8 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.
The next Richmond City Council meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 3.