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San Mateo County's New Program Will Send Clinicians on Mental Health Calls

REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF/BCN) – A new program will send behavioral health clinicians with law enforcement to help with emergency responses in San Mateo County's four largest cities starting next week in the hopes of keeping people suffering from mental health issues from ending up in jail or emergency rooms.

The two-year program launches Monday in Daly City, Redwood City, San Mateo and South San Francisco after the county Board of Supervisors and the city councils for the four cities approved it earlier this year with the goal of ensuring risky situations can be de-escalated and the person in crisis as well as the first responders can stay safe.

The San Carlos-based nonprofit StarVista contracted with the county to train and supervise clinicians who will work with the four cities' police departments. Dispatches will deploy the clinicians along with police officers in cases of mental or behavioral health crises.

San Mateo County's program is one of many being developed around the Bay Area and nation as jurisdictions try to avoid violent interactions between law enforcement and people in crisis.

"The county is proud to support such an important and necessary intervention which supports the safety of the individual in crisis and those around them," County Manager Mike Callagy said. "This provides another option for those who need mental health care rather than incarceration or hospitalization."

The two-year program is expected to cost an estimated $1.5 million, with the four cities and the county all contributing to the funding.

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