County leaders consider new models for mental health services

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is taking a hard look at ways to provide care and treatment for people with mental health problems. Kristin Gaspar, the Chair of the Board organized a conference Tuesday at the County Administration Center to hear from health care professionals, law enforcement, and social service providers about building a more robust continuum of care for those who suffer from mental health and behavioral problems.

According to a recent survey, nearly 9% of adults in the county reported being in serious psychiatric distress in the last year. More than 4% of San Diego County adults said they have suffered from a serious mental illness.The head of the county’s Behavioral Health Services, Dr. Luke Bergmann told the supervisors that those numbers are equal to or greater than the number of county residents who have Type 2 diabetes.

District Attorney Summer Stephan told the supervisors that the psychiatric emergency response team received 34,000 calls last year, an increase of 24%. While most people may think of taking a loved one to the nearest hospital emergency department, Stephan suggested adding another option; urgent care centers for mental health.

“It’s something that is not an emergency room, it is not a jail, but something in-between that is working in Los Angeles,” Stephan said.

Providing continuing care after the crisis is over is another area of concern.

“What we need more of in San Diego County is better coordination between ongoing care capacity and the crisis stabilization services,” Bergmann said.

He said behavioral health should be more fully integrated with the larger health care system, “so that the care we give to folks with behavioral health conditions is really a part, an indistinguishable part of our mainstream health care system.”

Categories: Health, Local San Diego News, Politics