County pilot program to add mental health professionals to emergency response

County pilot program to add mental health professionals to emergency response
Contra Costa Health Services A3 team with officer. Photo courtesy of CCHS

By Kathy Chouteau

A new system coming to Contra Costa County called Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime (A3) will look to provide around-the-clock care to county residents suffering from behavioral health emergencies, the County officials announced this week. The pilot program aims, in part, to reduce law enforcement intervention in lieu of clinical expertise.

Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) and other civic and community stakeholders were set to host the “A3 Community Crisis Initiative Event,” an online community update today at 4 p.m. on Zoom and Contra Costa TV.  

The A3 program will reportedly evolve over the next year and a half into a service that dispatches crisis response teams with mental health professionals directly to behavioral health emergency calls with first responders on a 24-hour basis.

CCHS said A3 will be accessible via 911 and through the Miles Hall Community Crisis Hub call center, which has a staff of CCHS clinicians who can “triage calls, determine appropriate responses and dispatch crisis response teams.” The call center is named in honor of Miles Hall, a local youth killed in 2019 during a mental health crisis that ultimately involved law enforcement.

A one-time allocation of $5 million in Measure X funds for infrastructure and $20 million in continuing funds for program operations is supporting CCHS’ current efforts to develop and hire program staff. A3 is being developed via a partnership consisting of CCHS, local government, first responders, mental health advocates, patients and families, said CCHS.

CCHS said Rep. Mark DeSaulnier has submitted two requests for Community Project Funding for behavioral health in Contra Costa County; if approved, the $2 million in federal funding would be applied toward further expanding these services.

Contra Costa Health Director Anna Roth said that the community “recognized an unmet health need and has come together in an unprecedented way.” She added that, when fully implemented, A3 will ensure that everyone can receive “culturally and clinically appropriate crisis services whenever help is requested” due to a behavioral health emergency.

CCHS cited Crisis Now, a nationally recognized organization, as estimating that—based on Contra Costa County’s population—there will be 28,800 acute crisis episodes per year. In 2019, about 13 percent or 14,000 of the County’s 108,000 emergency medical calls concerned behavioral health, per CCHS on its website.

To join today’s Zoom event on A3, click here. For more info regarding A3, click here. Community members having a behavioral health crisis, as well as those seeking help for others, can access services by calling 911, 211, or mobile crisis response at 1-833-433-2672.