It’s Friday at 9:30 a.m. and Pacific Clinics’ Fairfield office is quiet, except for a few team members. “We have two teams out on calls,” says Krystle Arceo, administrative assistant.
Krystle is referring to on-call crisis teams working with the Solano Mobile Crisis Response Services (SMCRS), which launched in May 2021 and became fully operational last month.
Mobile crisis responders are certified first responders who aim to de-escalate crisis situations, if possible, to prevent an individual from being placed on an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric hold, otherwise known as a 5150. Some team members have specialty backgrounds ranging from expertise in caring for the unhoused or youth, and everyone is trained by law enforcement in crisis response.
One of the main goals of mobile crisis is to provide trauma-informed care to those experiencing a mental health crisis by utilizing a team of mental health specialists and individuals with lived experience instead of calling law enforcement in these delicate situations. This also frees up law enforcement to respond to other types of crises in the community. Another role of mobile crisis is to link clients to resources. After the team responds to a call, they follow up with the individual(s) and share applicable resources.
The program now serves all of Solano County’s participating jurisdictions, including Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Vacaville and unincorporated Solano County areas—more than 850 square miles.
As of September 25, 2023, the program also extended its hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the goal of operating 24/7/365 in the coming weeks.
“It’s going well,” says Jennifer MacKinnon, LMFT, clinical associate director of SMCRS. “We’re seeing an uptick of calls. Our teams are strong, and we are supporting the community better than before.”
How it Works
- A call is made to 911 or 988.
- Depending on the call’s nature, law enforcement routes some of those calls to Solano Mobile Crisis.
- Law enforcement and SMCRS conduct a triage assessment to determine which risk tier is in effect and if the response will be conducted with law enforcement.
- SMCRS dispatches one of its teams, usually consisting of two people, a clinician and a peer specialist, who are also in constant contact with a supervisor for added support and safety.
- They arrive on the scene, check in with law enforcement if applicable, assess scene safety and then engage with the individual and try to establish trust and rapport.
- During engagement, the team assesses for risk, what the individual is experiencing and the level of danger to self or others.
- During engagement, the team also tries to de-escalate and build trust and connection.
- If the team determines an involuntary hold is required, they do the paperwork, call the ambulance and advise the individual they are being placed on a hold.
- The transport service takes them to one of several safe and secure facilities.
- Depending on the call, the team arrives back in the office and participates in a debrief and completes paperwork.
Power in the Pairing
Rachel Wilson, program coordinator, has been with the program since its launch in 2021, and reflects on the importance of teamwork between the clinician and peer. “It’s amazing how much lived experience is needed in this role,” she says.
“Being a clinician in this program and being paired with someone with lived experience has been incredibly helpful,” says Charlene Cheng, clinician. “You need to have two people, and the partnerships are so symbiotic. I can’t even imagine doing this role without a partner.”
Through the Eyes and Hearts of Our On-the-Ground Team
Rachel says most calls they receive are not about the incident that triggered the call. They are about the person’s years of experiences, traumas and dynamics leading up to it.
“All we have is this brief snapshot of one terrible day in their life,” says Victoria (Ria) Rose, peer-certified family specialist. “We don’t have a script. We usually start with ‘how are you feeling today/right now?’”
“We have a good level of tolerance, but we all have triggers,” says Ria. “I have a daughter, so anyone involved around that age could be harder. We de-stress by going through the car wash. It’s a great way to wash off the calls.”
“Often these calls bring up emotions and feelings of uncertainty, and we want them to be supported in being able to talk through it,” says Jennifer.
The Power of Paying it Forward
“People in these roles, especially in the peer roles, offer so much hope because we’ve been there. I’ve been 5150’d. I’ve attempted suicide. And here I am on the other end, being able to tell someone else I got help and I got better. I still struggle but no longer have to live in the dark hole. I’ve been pulled up and can help others come out of it, too,” says Rachel.