When law enforcement is called to a situation that involves a mental health crisis, there's a collaborative effort between local officials and a Mobile Evaluation Team (MET) that deals with psychiatric services.
In Bakersfield, officers have been able to call for a mobile evaluation provider since the 1990’s. Back then there were only 3 MET providers. Today they are up to 14. However, both law enforcement and MET providers, say they hope to expand their staff as mental health concerns are on the rise.
The Mobile Evaluation Team is not meant to replace police officers. It is rather an added resource with both groups are balancing each other out.
David Kessler with KCSO said: “We work with them a lot we have a great partnership with mental health. We love that partnership and we want to continue it”
Sgt. Nathan McCauley of the Bakersfield Police Department added: “We want to do our best job in serving our community, so having that as a resource that’s available is better for us all”
But the Director of Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Bill Walker, who launched MET over 20 years ago, said there are some situations they won't enter until it has been deemed safe by law enforcement.
“When people say you should have more Mobile Evaluation people when someone becomes violent. You have to watch those tapes and see how quickly someone escalates into violence. So the training there is different there in what you need to address,” he explained.
Another issue the collaboration has encountered, covering the entire county with limited staffing. For now, with specialized funding, they're able to start up a virtual MET program.
“You could have an officer up in the mountain ranges or somewhere out in the desert and it’s hard to get a unit to them even if you had someone available right at that moment. They can actually log into an iPad and get the consultation they need out in the field,” said Walker.
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