RPD’s new partnership with county on mental health cases touts initial success

Man fatally struck in Richmond Tuesday

A new Richmond police partnership with the county to assist potentially violent mentally ill individuals in the city resulted this week in the seizure of a firearm from a resident who had threatened to hurt himself, police said.

Last month, RPD signed a memorandum of understanding with Contra Costa County’s Behavior Health Services Division (BHSD) to operate the Mental Health Evaluation Team (MHET) Program. The program has a specially trained MHET police officer in Richmond working directly with BHSD to conduct welfare checks and other outreach with specific residents who have serious and persistent mental illness. The aim of the program is to link these individuals to needed services, limiting preventable visits to Psychiatric Emergency Services, and to reduce the number of violent encounters between police officers and the mentally ill.

On Tuesday, the program tallied one of its first successes with the seizure of a firearm from a man who expressed a desire to harm himself with the weapon, Richmond police Lt. Felix Tan said.

The incident unfolded at about 12:15 p.m. Thursday, when RPD officers responded to a call of a possible suicidal individual at the Brookside Homeless Shelter at 847 Brookside Drive.

The subject was taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation, where he told officers he had access to a firearm, Tan said. But officers could not find the weapon when they searched his home.

RPD’s new MHET officer, who had phoned the hospital before the patient’s arrival to inform them of his mental state, asked hospital staff to inquire about where his firearm might be. On Friday, that officer discovered the person had stored his firearm at a location in Concord. The MHET officer contacted Concord police and worked with officers to find the location and the rifle. The officer took it for “safekeeping and safety, so that the subject won’t hurt himself with it,” Tan said.

RPD’s MHET officer is one of three in the county. The cities of Pittsburg and Concord also have one. Their partnerships with the county’s health clinicians allows for more informed on-the-spot assessments of individuals who need mental health services. The MHET officers additionally “conduct follow up investigations on all persons who have been evaluated for their mental health, to ensure they receive all the assistance necessary,” Tan said.