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Criminal Justice

LA Mayor Garcetti Wants To Fund Programs That Get Police Out Of The Mental Health Business

 L.A. County Department of Mental Health workers board a Therapeutic Transport van.
One of the five vans that will be used in the L.A. County Department of Mental Health's "Therapeutic Transport" pilot.
(Courtesy L.A. County Department of Mental Health)
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During his State of the City speech Monday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti briefly outlined new proposed efforts to get police out of the mental health business.

He dubbed the approach TURN — Therapeutic Unarmed Response for Neighborhoods. It would devote nearly $19 million to a combination of initiatives, subject to approval by the city council.

Some $10 million would go towards alternative mental health crisis response programs, which have yet to be finalized.

“The truth is that there’s a lot of energy and innovation around this idea of unarmed response, and so we’re putting this $10 million aside because we want to be able to spin up pilot programs around this very quickly throughout the fiscal year,” said Andre Herndon, Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff.

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The City Council voted last fall to develop an unarmed model of crisis response that would divert non-violent calls for mental health and substance use situations away from law enforcement. It’s not clear if some or all of the $10 million in Garcetti’s budget proposal would go towards that program.

“The truth is that there’s a lot of energy and innovation around this idea of unarmed response."

Here are some of Garcetti’s other funding proposals for TURN:

  • $3 million for the CIRCLE (Crisis and Incident Response Through Community-Led Engagement) pilot project. CIRCLE would staff unarmed teams made up of a homeless service provider and a mental health clinician from the nonprofit Urban Alchemy who would be available around the clock to respond to crises within the unhoused community. Garcetti is proposing to base the pilot in Venice and Hollywood.
  • $2.2 million for the Therapeutic Transport pilot, a city-county program first announced last year. It will deploy a fleet of five specially-equipped vans throughout the county that would respond to nonviolent mental health calls. They’ll be staffed with mental health experts — not police — and allow the patient to connect with a psychiatrist remotely from inside the van. The program was initially supposed to launch in January, but it’s now slated to launch in May.
  • $460,000 for a Suicide Prevention pilot. This would be a joint effort of the L.A. County Department of Mental Health and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, which runs the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.