This week Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) joined local elected officials from the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG), Arcadia, Montebello, San Marino, and South Pasadena to announce the launch of the San Gabriel Valley Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement (SGV CARE) program. During the press conference, Senator Portantino announced $850,000 in new funding that he secured from the 2022-2023 state budget for the mobile crisis response pilot program. These resources will help expand SGV CARE to other cities in the San Gabriel Valley, connecting vulnerable residents to definitive care for acute medical, mental health, and social needs through trauma-informed engagement.
"Far too many Californians are facing a mental health crisis and our cities need an aggressive mobile crisis response to provide critical care,” stated Senator Portantino. “De-escalation and relief to individuals in the midst of experiencing a behavioral health emergency at home, work or school is necessary. I'm delighted to have been able to respond to the call for help by securing state funding to support and expand the SGV CARE program to provide better access and much needed behavioral health services to the San Gabriel Valley."
SGV CARE is the first multi-city regional collaboration focused on providing alternative mobile crisis response to 911 emergency calls for unhoused and housed individuals experiencing a mental health or behavioral health crisis. Under a phased approach initially through a co-response model, the cohort of four cities, including South Pasadena, San Marino, Arcadia, and Montebello, are participating in the program in partnership with Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (L.A. CADA) that will dispatch two-person Mobile Crisis Teams (MCT) consisting of a licensed clinician and certified peer support specialist or substance use disorder counselor to accompany police or fire officials to respond to mental and behavioral health service calls.
"The launch of SGV CARE is a positive step to ensuring residents of the San Gabriel Valley get the mental health care they need when they are in crisis," said South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti. "The implementation of alternative teams that include trained mental and behavioral health staff will reduce the burden on our law enforcement and first responders needed for other types of emergencies. This new mobile crisis response program will result in better outcomes and better care for all of our residents.”
Ultimately, the goal of the program is to provide an unarmed alternative response and offer an extra deployment resource for non-violent mental and behavioral health service calls through de-escalation and providing connections to resources and follow-up care. Through this new approach, leaders and emergency responders hope to improve crisis call outcomes and strengthen trust with their residents.
"Today, we are reimagining the San Gabriel Valley's approach to public safety," said SGVCOG President and Monrovia Mayor Becky Shevlin. "With the growing mental health crisis and increase in homelessness throughout the region, we recognize the need to support our emergency responders and residents who reach out in a crisis. Thanks to the support of our partners, such as the Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (L.A. CADA), State Senator Portantino, and our local public safety officers, we can now provide better care that is responsive to the mental health needs of all community members whether housed or unhoused. We are looking forward to growing this pilot program across the Valley and are proud of the difference SGV CARE has made thus far.”
Senator Portantino has a strong record of advocating for mental health policies during his time in public office. The Senator previously authored SB 972, which required schools to print the suicide hotline on student identification cards. He dedicated three years to pass SB 328, a policy which pushes back start times for middle and high schools. Scientific data and research show that later school start times lead to improved mental health for kids, with reductions in instances of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Senator Portantino also authored SB 224 – which requires local educational agencies, which currently offer one or more courses in health education to middle or high school students, to include mental health content in those courses. It also requires that the California Department of Education develop a plan to expand mental health instruction in California public schools on or before January 1, 2024. Additionally, he authored SB 14, requiring the California Department of Education to recommend best practices and identify training programs to address youth behavioral health, including but not limited to, staff and pupil training. The bill also ensures that youth absences from school for mental health issues will be treated as an excused absence in the same way any other health issues are treated.
This year, Senator Portantino authored SB 1207 – which improves maternal mental health support and SB 1002 – which addresses California’s mental health provider shortage. Both bills were signed into law by Governor Newsom.