In addition to passing a motion to create an Office of Immigrant Affairs (mentioned in the story above), on Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal from the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Mental Health to expand the number of Mental Evaluation Teams (MET teams) within the sheriff’s department to 23. The motion was introduced by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kathryn Barger.
MET teams—comprised of a specially trained sheriff’s deputy and a Department of Mental Health clinician—respond to mental health crisis calls, and work to diffuse potentially violent situations and avoid arrests and hospitalizations when possible.
There are only currently 10 MET teams, which are not all on duty at once, and are stretched extremely thin. Those units responded to 1,154 calls for service, 64% of which led to mental health hospitalizations. Of those 1,154 calls, less than 1% resulted in an arrest.
In 2015, LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey released a major report on diverting the county’s mentally ill from jails into community treatment. One of Lacey’s suggestions was to expand the number of MET teams to 23.
Expanding the MET program will fill in holes in the services the county provides to residents. County officials hope to also reduce the number of lawsuits against the county resulting from use-of-force incidents involving mentally ill people.
“Over the past three years, the Board has approved settlements totaling nearly $7 million, plus an
additional $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees and costs,” the motion reads. “These lawsuits involved the use of deadly force by the Sheriff’s Department during encounters with persons with mental illness.”
The motion also calls for a mental health triage desk that would give “consultation to patrol officers regarding safe and effective resolution of encounters with individuals suspected of having a mental illness.”
The County CEO’s Office will work with the sheriff’s department, the County Health Agency, the Office of Diversion and Reentry, and the Department of Mental Health to put together a plan for funding the MET expansion and the triage desk and return to the board in 60 days.
The board also asked that the sheriff, the head of the Dept. of Mental Health, and the Office of Diversion and Reentry gather information on outcomes and other monthly data to measure the effectiveness of the use of mental health response teams including: “the volume of calls for service, response times, number of persons hospitalized, transported to psychiatric urgent care centers, incarcerated and/or released to family or home with services.”