Santa Barbara, Calif. – May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we at the Sheriff’s Office take the mental wellbeing of our community members very seriously. Each year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental health condition. This past year, we have all had to endure an increased amount of stress because of COVID-19. We understand that persons experiencing mental health crises are often in need of immediate response, quality care and follow up.
The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the public about the work that we have been doing with our partners at the Department of Behavioral Wellness. Together, we offer a cutting-edge resource to our community with our mental health co-response teams. Santa Barbra County currently has three full time co-response teams, each with one deputy and one licensed clinician that respond out in the field with the intent to de-escalate persons in crises, divert them from the criminal justice system, connect them directly with care and provide follow up after the crises has subsided.
Our co-response teams have been in operation since February of 2020. In 2020 the Sheriff’s Office had approximately 2,984 mental health crises calls. Of the 2,984 calls a total of 1,606 were handled by a co-response team, and less than 15 of those calls ended with an arrestee going to jail. Mental illness itself is not a crime, and it is our job to ensure, to the best of our ability, that persons in mental health crises are safe and get the support and services they need. Our co-response teams are one of the ways that the Sheriff’s Office is working to respond to the mental health needs of our community members.
To learn more about our Behavioral Sciences Unit and our co-response teams, please take a look at our website. You can also find a 911 checklist that includes helpful information for family members who are in crisis and information about what the Sheriff’s Office offers during a crisis response.