Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

Marin County is planning to expand its mental health crisis intervention team and make clinicians available for calls round-the-clock to comply with a recent state mandate.

Created in 2016, the Marin County Mobile Crisis Team consists of licensed clinicians who are available to respond to incidents involving people experiencing a mental health crisis. The team and similar programs in other cities are meant to provide an alternative to law enforcement intervention in such crises.

The team has seven clinicians on staff who respond to calls from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays. At least two clinicians are on duty at a time.

Todd Schirmer, director of Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, said the department plans to contract with three peer counselors and add five county substance use counselors to be part of the team. A counselor will accompany clinicians on response calls as needed.

“We’re trying to expand the scope of the team as well as have more people on duty so we can cover 24/7,” Schirmer said.

Schirmer said at least one clinician and one counselor will be on duty. Another two teams could be on duty during certain midday, afternoon and evening hours, with these teams focused on youth and school responses and following up on prior calls. One clinician will be working during the overnight shift.

California is requiring county mobile crisis teams to provide 24/7 coverage before the end of the year. The change comes as a result of the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which allowed these crisis intervention services to be covered under Medicaid through March 2027.

Schirmer said the proposal is to fund the expansion of the county’s crisis team through the state’s Mental Health Services Act, with no impact on the county’s general fund.

The number of calls the team received has increased through the years, rising from about 1,000 calls in 2016 to about 3,000 calls in 2022.

Schirmer said there have been significant challenges to fill clinician positions.

“There are certain calls that will go to voicemail,” Schirmer said.

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