photo credit: (Credit: Franco Folini)
Santa Rosa is considering substantial changes in how the city's police respond to mental health crises. 
Proponents call it a sea change. John Cregan is a captain with the Santa Rosa Police Department. "This is going to provide a better level of service for our community."
This week, Santa Rosa's city council is being asked to spend 1.5 million dollars to partial pay for the plan. Which is to transition responses for certain disturbances to mobile crisis teams. With training in mental health, de-escalation and medicine, the aim would be diffusing disputes and assessing long term need.
"Right now, people will get put on a mental health hold and they'll go to the crisis stabilization unit for up to 72 hours, but then they're often released and they're back on the street and they're go back and there's a cycle of going into crisis and the next day or two days later we have police and fire engines that are going out to provide them services."
Police, trained to swiftly eliminate threats, aren't always the best at resolving such issues in the long run. "And what we're hoping to see a decrease is in jail bookings, in police officer encounters that result in use of force."
If approved, Cregan says the teams could hit the street in November for ten hours a day, seven days a week. He says additional funding is being sought to have teams on the clock, around the clock.
"We're hoping with this kind of upstream approach, of helping them before they go into crisis, it's really going to have an impact on not seeing people having these incidents where they harm themselves, harm others, or in a moment of crisis they end up committing criminal offences and getting housed in our local jail system, and that's what we want to avoid."
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