Implement PERT in Riverside County to decrease police presence on mental health calls!

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The implementation of a PERT program in Riverside County would not only decrease police presence during emergency responses to a person experiencing behavioral health issues, but it would also ensure that a licensed mental health clinician is always in attendance with a law enforcement officer to assess the person in distress. All law enforcement officers are trained on behavioral health awareness, response, and de-escalation tactics. 

Law enforcement officers in Riverside County have a history of being negligent to de-escalate behavioral health-related crises and unnecessarily using excessive force on behavioral health calls which ultimately caused the death of Matthew Tucker in 2016 as well as the unjust mistreatment of Joseph Ramirez in 2020.

PERT is a program used in San Diego County and should be a model for all counties to partner their law enforcement agencies with mental health providers and emergency medical services to provide the safest assessment and assistance.

~What is PERT?

The Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) is a program of Community Research Foundation (CRF) in partnership with San Diego County Health and Human Services (HHSA), San Diego County law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS), and consumer advocacy organizations. PERT contributes to the well-being of persons living with mental illness by actively and compassionately assisting those in crisis who come to the attention of law enforcement and EMS to access appropriate services through on-scene assessments and referrals. PERT pairs a licensed mental health clinician with a law enforcement officer/deputy or EMS community paramedic. The teams ride together in the field for their entire shift and are first responders to assist persons in behavioral health related crises.

PERT provides training to all San Diego County law enforcement agencies, as well as fire service personnel and dispatchers on behavioral health awareness and response, including de-escalation.

Vision:

Persons living with mental illness will have access to and be referred to programs at the appropriate level of service and no person will be hospitalized or incarcerated unnecessarily.

Mission:

PERT provides effective and compassionate crisis intervention to persons (including their family members and supports) living with mental illness who are contacted by law enforcement officers/deputies and EMS. The goal is to safely and effectively de-escalate crises and provide appropriate referrals that offer the least restrictive level of care, thus avoiding unnecessary hospitalization and incarceration. PERT is recognized as a "best practice" model that epitomizes law enforcement, EMS and clinicians working together to provide the best service options for persons living with mental illness.

PERT Cores Values:

We believe that persons living with mental illness should be compassionately assessed and be referred to assistance that is appropriate to those needs.

We believe that first responders and behavioral health clinicians have a responsibility to collaboratively work together with persons living with mental illness, their family and support persons, and the community as a whole to ensure that people receive the level of care they require.

We believe that on-scene partnership of behavioral health and first responders contributes to the well-being of persons living with mental illness and to the community.

We believe that outreach efforts to marginalized groups in the community assist persons to meet identified needs and assist communities to recognize and address larger issues related to community health and safety. 

History:

In the early 1990's, there were several officer involved shootings and critical incidents involving persons living with mental illness. At that time, there was a gap in collaboration between law enforcement and mental health providers. The community at large, mental health consumers, family members, San Diego County HHSA, and law enforcement agencies convened to recommend that officers/deputies receive additional training in recognizing and responding to persons experiencing behavioral health issues and acquire clinical support from behavioral health professionals. Hence, PERT is the result of community partners collaborating to provide optimal service for persons (and their family members and supports) living with mental illness, including the provision of training to public safety personnel throughout San Diego County.  

~Information provided by Community Research Foundation.