Mobile Crisis Response Team addresses increased mental health crises, but more needed

I n 2021, the program received 5,098 crisis calls, a 49.72% increase from 2020, which saw 3,405 calls. The frequency of calls is correlated with spikes in COVID-19 cases, indicating that the pandemic was a large factor in mental health crises.

Even as COVID-19 case counts begin to subside, The Campanile recognizes that mental health remains as crucial as ever. Given the toxic and cutthroat academic environment at Paly as well as the devastating effects of the pandemic, raising awareness for mental health and providing support for those who need it is of utmost importance.

The Campanile praises the county’s swift response to its increasing number of mental health crises in recent years through its addition of four new staff members to the MCRT who will address crisis situations in the District 5 area of the county. While the four members will help decrease response times of the MCRT, an additional four members may not be enough to immediately address the wide-ranging mental health issues of each individual.

Current response times for the MCRT are approximately 17 to 22 minutes, due to vacancies in the program. Sandra Hernandez, the Behavioral Health Division Director at Santa Clara County, estimated that the response time would be around 11 to 12 minutes with the additional staff members. However, even 11 minutes is too long of a wait for a person in a mental health crisis.

While those experiencing a mental health crisis can dial 911 and have police respond within minutes, police are not often trained to handle mental health situations. According to USA Today, those who have mental health issues are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than those who don’t.

As such, the county should make the effort to increase the number of staff members not only for the North County/West Valley region, but for the whole county. While each additional MCRT staff member is paid on average $154,952 annually, even if one life is saved, every penny will have been worth the cost.

While the county’s efforts at addressing the mental health crisis is commendable, The Campanile thinks the county can further its efforts through increasing the number of staff members in the MCRT in order to better serve the needs of all of its residents.