The Mountain View Police Department, along with the San Jose Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office, will be the first law enforcement agencies to transport people to the Mental Health Triage Center, located on Mission Street in San Jose. Mentally ill individuals taken to the triage center will be met by clinical staff for assessments, counseling and referrals, and can stay for up to one full day.
Though the program is intended for those experiencing a mental health crisis, anyone deemed a danger to themselves or others — the criteria for a "5150" or 72-hour involuntary psychiatric hold — will not be admitted.
Up until now, the San Jose facility has been run as a so-called sobering center for the county, with 20 recliners available for people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and do not face criminal charges that require booking into county jail. The sobering center was launched in 2017 as a "positive alternative" to incarceration that puts people on a path towards health care and substance use treatment rather than imprisonment, according to county staff reports.
Because the center has been under-capacity since its launch, county officials decided to expand it to include mental health referrals. Half of the recliners will be designated for the Mental Health Triage Center, but will remain under the same roof and run by the same organization, Horizon Services.
The Mountain View Police Department was also among one of three law enforcement agencies to use the sobering center starting in October 2017, and took advantage of the center more frequently than almost any other department in the county. Data through May 2019 shows that Mountain View police referred 99 people to the sobering center, more than the Campbell Police Department (71) and the San Jose Police Department (60).
Mountain View police Chief Max Bosel told the Voice in an email that the center does not absolve anyone of charges for criminal conduct, but provides a supervised space for people to sober up and potentially get connected to treatment services. The option means that Mountain View is able to help those with health problems while also freeing up law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, he said.
"The center's inclusion of behavioral services helps to holistically address problems commonly encountered by police officers with individuals who have mental health needs," Bosel said.
Over the last decade, the already high number of mentally ill inmates throughout California has risen significantly, as has the number of people deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. Data reviewed by the group California Health Policy Strategies found that the number of inmates on psychotropic drugs in Santa Clara County grew from 607 in 2013 to 708 in 2017 — accounting for roughly 20% of the jail population.
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