San Francisco's New Street Crisis Response Team Launches Today
Partnership between the Department of Public Health and Fire Department begins with first SCRT Team on the street today with more teams to come as pilot ramps up. SCRT offers a non-police response to calls related to people suffering from mental health and substance use issues on City streets.
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the launch of the first phase of San Francisco’s Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT) pilot program. The first team will begin responding to 911 calls regarding people experiencing behavioral health crises today. The Street Crisis Response Team is part of San Francisco’s efforts to develop alternatives to police responses to non-violent calls, which advances the Mayor’s roadmap to fundamentally change the way that the City handles public safety, and is also a major step in implementing Mental Health SF.
The SCRT pilot program is a collaboration between the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Fire Department with significant support from the Department of Emergency Management. The San Francisco Police Department will also be a key partner in the transition of certain types of 911 calls to the new teams. Each team includes a community paramedic, a behavioral health clinician, and a behavioral health peer specialist. The goal of the new program is to provide an appropriate non-law enforcement response to behavioral health emergencies in San Francisco and divert individuals in crisis away from emergency rooms and criminal legal settings into behavioral health treatment. The SCRT aims to provide trauma-informed clinical interventions and care coordination for people who experience behavioral health crises on the streets of San Francisco.
“This new program can help us break the cycle that all too often keeps people going in and out of our emergency rooms or our jails. When the Street Crisis Response Team responds to a call for someone in crisis, they’ll be able to help with compassion and clinical skills to get people the care and support they need,” said Mayor Breed. “Changing the way we respond to non-violent calls is going to take work and it’s going to take time. The SCRT is an important first step in our long-term effort to change how we respond to people suffering on our streets.”
The program’s first team starts today, Monday, November 30, 2020, and will initially operate Monday-Friday, from 10am-6pm. This first team will focus on responding to calls in the Tenderloin, which will allow the SCRT to respond efficiently to calls in a high-need and relatively small geographic area during the initial phase of the program. Additional teams will be phased in over the coming weeks and months, ramping up to at least six teams by the end of March 2021, with the goal of enabling the SCRT to operate citywide, 7 days per week and up to 24 hours a day.
The team is dispatched to address calls for service by the 911 call center. Through pairing behavioral health specialists and medical professionals, the Street Crisis Response Team can begin to respond to some of the calls that the SFPD currently answers. While the first phase will focus on calls involving “mentally disturbed adults,” the objective of the pilot program is to respond to additional calls regarding behavioral health over time. In addition, individuals will be connected to services and supported by DPH to ensure follow-up care is coordinated.
“We are proud to be adding this model to the existing crisis response services at the Department of Public Health. 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 San Francisco Fire Department has been a pioneer in the field of community paramedicine,” said Chief Jeanine Nicholson of the San Francisco Fire Department. “The fire department’s EMS-6 team, through trauma-informed engagement and compassionate advocacy, has for the last five years led the way in connecting vulnerable people to definitive care for acute medical, mental health and social needs. The Street Crisis Response Team will continue the innovation on a larger scale and the collaboration with the Department of Public Health will facilitate access to care for those experiencing behavioral crises on our streets.”
The service model for the Street Crisis Response Team is unique in the incorporation of a behavioral health peer specialist who has lived experience of homelessness, mental illness, and/or substance use disorder. Peer specialists are people who have been successful in the recovery process and are skilled to help others experiencing similar situations. DPH has contracted with HealthRIGHT360 to hire the behavioral health clinicians and with RAMS, Inc. (Richmond Area Multi-Services) to hire the behavioral health peer specialists. This team will coordinate with other street outreach teams including the Department of Public Health’s Street Medicine team, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s Homeless Outreach Team, and the Fire Department’s EMS-6 team.
As the SCRT program is phased in, the Police Department will continue responding to calls that are non-violent, and/or behavioral health-related, since the single team will not be able to respond to all the behavioral health crisis calls received. However, once the pilot program is fully ramped up by the end of March, the City expects that SCRT teams will be able to respond to approximately 17,000 calls for service per year, which is equivalent to the number of non-violent “mentally disturbed person” calls to which the Police Department currently responds.
In June, Mayor Breed announced that the City is in the process of creating a system to divert non-violent calls from the Police Department to other first responders. Establishing a Street Crisis Response Team is an essential part of this system and enables appropriate calls to be directed toward behavioral health and medical professionals. Mayor Breed has convened the Alternatives to Policing Steering Committee to help guide the City’s process for identifying alternatives to police response for non-violent calls to 911 and 311.
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.