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Leaders praise first-year success of Street Crisis Response Team program

One year after the program’s launch, city leaders came out Tuesday to tout success of San Francisco Street Crisis Response Teams.

The teams respond to individuals in crisis on city streets with deescalation methods and address the each person’s needs for immediate care, which may include treatment or shelter.

Each SCRT team consists of a community paramedic from the Fire Department, a behavioral health clinician from HealthRIGHT360 and a peer specialist with lived experience from Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc.

The Mayor’s Office said SCRT teams received more than 5,000 calls and engaged with nearly 3,000 individuals in the first year. Nearly 60 percent of monthly 911 dispatch calls are now being diverted from law enforcement to behavioral specialists for intervention, city officials said.

At a press conference Tuesday, Mayor London Breed said:

“We have a lot of challenges in San Francisco and we truly appreciate and value our Police Department and the work that they do to serve and protect the people of this city. We also understand that there are some calls that are not necessarily needed.”

Public health director Dr. Grant Colfax said the thousands of calls to SCRT teams have resulted in fewer ambulance rides, emergency room visits and law enforcement interactions.

Colfax said the SCRT program gives The City an opportunity to connect individuals with appropriate services and provide follow-up care after initial encounters, adding:

“This is really about meeting people where they are and tailoring our response.”

About 31 percent of people who interact with SCRT also engage with follow-up care, such as connecting with a provider or treatment program, officials said.

City officials are asking the public who do call 911 to provide dispatchers with as much information as possible so they can triage calls to appropriate resources.

Mary Ellen Caroll, the executive director for the Department of Emergency Management, where the 911 dispatch center is located, said there has been tension between some callers and dispatchers while trying to obtain pertinent information.

Before the press conference, the mayor spoke with some dispatchers about their concerns, including callers who make specific requests about they type of response they feel is needed.

Breed stressed that dispatchers are the experts on available resources and can best judge the appropriate level of response, whether that be law enforcement or SCRT team.

The SCRT program is a component of the Mental Health SF initiative that seeks to revamp how The City helps those experiencing mental health issues and homelessness. There are currently six SCRT teams in service, with plans to launch a seventh team in early 2022.

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