Long Beach, News

West Long Beach gets mental health first responders

West Long Beach becomes the first area in the city to have mental health-related emergency calls responded to by specialists instead of uniformed police officers.

The team is part of the city’s Community Crisis Response (CCR) Team which launched earlier this summer and aims to improve community safety through health-based approaches.

Five mental health specialists will be available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays to respond to non-violent, non-medical calls with focuses on behavioral health and quality of life.

This team’s responsibilities include calls regarding mental health crises, suicidal callers, public intoxication, welfare checks, unwelcome individuals and disturbances.

According to a press release by the city, the team will not respond to calls about an armed person, medical emergencies, a person exhibiting violent behavior or someone threatening to hurt themselves or others.

“You wouldn’t deploy a police officer to put out a fire so now we have an additional team to deploy when it makes sense,” said Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson.

CCR will also be available as an additional resource to police and fire departments.

The team will provide various services beyond providing basic need items. This service is in addition to providing transportation for resources like mental health urgent care and housing services.

CCR is a result of the Racial Equity and Reconciliation Initiative which was approved by the Long Beach City Council in June 2020 after the murder of George Floyd.

Funding for the program was included in the Long Beach Recovery Act and includes $3.6 million for CCR, according to the city.

Residents are unable to call these services directly. To access the CCR resources, people are required to call the non-emergency line and will be directed to CCR during operating hours.

Richardson said that he hopes this will relieve some burden on the police department.

“Police have a lot on their plate, they’re responding to crises 24/7 and there are a lot of calls that come in and this allows us to free up police officers to be a bit more proactive and be able to be more responsive on the issues where they’re needed most,” Richardson said.

Richardson added this is all a part of the Long Beach Police Department’s transition to a more community-based model of policing.

CCR can be identified by the bright blue City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services shirts.

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