Response teams considered
The LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis that allows the LA County Department of Mental Health to enter negotiations with Metro about the possibility of using county mental health professionals to respond to mental health crises aboard Metro’s trains and buses.
“I, personally, think this is a great idea,” said Hahn, who authored the motion. “Anyone who has taken Metro knows there is a need for mental health professionals on our transit system. Our County mental health professionals are trained to handle difficult situations and connect people with the long-term treatment and support they need.”
Following the death of George Floyd and protests nationwide, Hahn co-authored a motion with fellow Metro board member Councilman Mike Bonin to rethink public safety on the transit system and create a Public Safety Advisory Committee. In anticipation of the Committee’s recommendations, Metro staff reached out to the County Department of Mental Health to discuss implementing mental health crisis response teams in the transit system. There is no agreement currently. The passage of this motion allows the Department of Mental Health to begin official conversations with Metro about providing mental health crisis response services and give the department the authority to enter into a contract if an agreement is reached.
“This potential partnership between our Department of Mental Health and Metro is crucial to re-imagining how we can assist and support residents who experience mental health crises on buses and rail cars throughout Metro’s transit network,” said Solis. “Providing our riders with the resources and services they need is how we can bring equitable transportation to every resident.”
The County Department of Mental Health currently operates two types of mental health crisis teams. One is known as a Mental Evaluation Team (MET) which consists of one highly trained law enforcement officer paired with one DMH-licensed mental health clinician to provide a specialized response to the highest-risk crises with the goal of diverting these individuals to treatment, minimizing uses of force and harmful outcomes, and mitigating incarceration and justice system involvement. The other type of team is an unarmed, non-law enforcement Psychiatric Mobile Response Teams (PMRT) with teams consisting of at least one licensed mental health clinician and at least one other mental health professional.
The County is working to expand the number of PMRT teams available and move the program to 24/7. These professional mental health teams will be accessible through the upcoming national mental health crisis hotline 9-8-8, which is set to launch next summer.