New partnership to help Merced Police Department's DART with mental health-related calls

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- On a daily basis, The Merced Police Departments Disruptive Area Response Team, or DART, works closely with homeless individuals - informing them about services.

Occasionally they'll run into someone in crisis, suffering from mental health issues.

Officers are trained to respond to these situations, but now they're receiving extra support from Merced County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services

"It is a partnership that comes at a very important and crucial time for our city and for our county," said Mike Murphy the Mayor of Merced.

Tuesday morning, a new partnership was announced between the two agencies, creating a Mobile Crisis Response Team.

It's the first program of its kind in Merced County. Their efforts will go far beyond the city's homeless population.

"This is huge because now they will work daily with professionals that have the expertise in connecting people that might be in crisis with those services that will get them in a better place," said Tom Cavallero, the Merced Police Chief.

A team made up of at least one officer and a specialist will be deployed to certain 911 calls involving those struggling with mental health issues or experiencing a mental break.

"Often times we respond as if something was a crime and we are actually traumatizing and actually causing stigma for behavioral health," said Genevieve Valentine, Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services

Valentine said the partnership will help keep people out of detention centers and away from hospitals. Training is underway to prepare teams.

"Trainings on suicide response, crisis response, trauma informed interventions and cultural humility," she said.

Next, Behavioral Health plans on expanding their program to the Sheriff's Office, followed by the entire county and eventually neighboring counties.
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