We all regularly see individuals who may be experiencing some form of crisis and are in need of mental health or other types of assistance. Mental health challenges are not limited to any particular neighborhood, socio-economic class, or racial group. Sacramento Police Department officers are frequently the first people called and asked to intervene and provide assistance to those in need of mental health services.
Calls to the Sacramento Police Department related to mental health issues have increased. In 2018 the Department received 9,267 requests for assistance related to mental health issues. The number of requests increased to 10,587 in the first ten months of 2019.
In response to the need in Sacramento for mental health services and for effective first responder action, the Sacramento Police Department created the Mental Health Unit in October 2018.
In May 2019, Bridgette Dean was hired as the first Police Social Services Administrator. Bridgette has a bachelors and masters degree in Social Work from CSU Sacramento. She previously worked in elementary and high schools before taking a position with the Roseville Police Department.
She is not a sworn officer but is a licensed clinical social worker and acts as a civilian lieutenant. She oversees the Mental Health Team plus the IMPACT Team (which responds to issues associated with homelessness) and the Hospital Team (which responds to needs of people in Kaiser and Sutter emergency rooms).
The Mental Health Unit consists of two sergeants, 16 officers and one reserve officer. They are available whenever requested by patrol officers in the field or by the public. The unit sees their purpose as bringing a different perspective to mental health situations. Bridgette strongly believes their unit and the Department can blend social work with police work.
Their ultimate goal is to connect people with services they need and thereby reduce repeat 911 calls. Currently they connect people to over 50 organizations that offer counseling services, shelter and housing, suicide prevention, health clinics, older adult services, self help guidance and much more.
Ultimately, the department may establish more teams which would partner with clinicians from Sacramento County for crisis support. This is because law enforcement cannot always be the primary responders for challenges of homelessness and non-criminal crisis issues that impact city neighborhoods.
The Sacramento Police Department is unique in having devoted so many resources to mental health.
In all of California only Roseville has a similar unit and it was created by Ms. Dean. Additionally, all department officers are now extensively trained in mental health. Officers are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of annual mental health training. Our police department has created a new model for other California cities.