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Program to divert some police calls to mental health team approved.

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Last Tuesday the Claremont City Council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding which formally established the Psychiatric Assessment Care Team (PACT) which will respond to certain non-emergency calls received by Claremont police.

The Psychiatric Assessment Care Team consists of a licensed psychiatric technician and a licensed clinical therapist, who will respond to calls for service regarding homeless individuals and those experiencing some type of mental health crisis. When this type of call is received by dispatch, a watch commander will triage the situation and decide whether the call is best handled by police, the PACT team or both.

“The goal of the PACT is to utilize police resources more effectively and efficiently to respond to mental health needs of Claremont residents and/or visitors by using trained mental health professionals to take the lead on non-violent, non-criminal calls for assistance received by the police department, including responses to addressing persons with mental health needs who do not have a permanent residence,” police officials said in a statement.

The program, a partnership between the Claremont Police Department and Tri-City Mental Health, has been in the making for three years and has been a priority for both Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen and Tri-City’s Shawn Smith, a crisis intervention, medication support and intensive outreach and engagement manager. Initially they had hoped to get the program going in January.

The two mental health professionals will respond to calls to provide crisis intervention, including screening and evaluation as well as referral to other mental health services offered by Tri-City. The team will also follow up with these individuals and families to ensure they are connected to appropriate ongoing services. In addition, the team will be certified to write involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations know as 5150 holds.

Funding for PACT comes from the Mental Health Services Act which was passed by voters in 2004.

“Many times our local police departments get calls from the community that are really social services related,” Tri-City Executive Director Toni Navarro told the COURIER last November. She said a lot of calls come from residents or business owners who may be genuinely concerned about the well being of a homeless person. “It doesn’t necessarily involve any potential crime, or any potential concern of violence, and so those types of calls and situations are appropriate to have a mental health professional [respond] who can accesses the situation.”

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