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Santa Rosa launches mental health emergency response team

Santa Rosa’s long-anticipated mental health emergency response team launched its operations Tuesday.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside Santa Rosa City Hall, city officials unveiled the dedicated van for inRESPONSE, a program modeled after Eugene, Oregon-based CAHOOTS and other alternatives to police that cities across the country have piloted in recent years.

“Two years ago in 2020, we heard very clearly from our community about the need to create a new way to respond to those experiencing a mental health crisis,” Santa Rosa Police Chief Ray Navarro told the crowd. “I believe that we have taken the best practices from other programs throughout the nation, and we are creating a unique service here in our community that meets our needs and expectations.”

InRESPONSE intends to handle emergencies with a trauma-informed, behavioral health-forward approach. It takes calls to 911 for behavioral health issues, welfare checks, potential suicide, intoxication, delivering death notifications, transportation requests and assisting with housing.

The van was already responding to calls by Tuesday afternoon, according to an email from Captain John Cregan, who has spearheaded the inRESPONSE effort in his department.

The team consists of a licensed clinical social worker, a paramedic and a homeless outreach specialist. Wraparound support services providers will also participate in coordinating follow up resources and care.

Though inRESPONSE is funded through the Santa Rosa Police Department and works in cooperation with officers, the providers wear distinct uniforms and are not armed.

Authorities hope that the program will divert 5,000 911 calls a year from the police department.

The program currently operates 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. By early summer, Cregan said he hopes to add a second team to increase their capacity, with the goal of expanding to 24/7 service by the end of 2022.

You can reach Staff Writer Emily Wilder at 707-521-5337 or emily.wilder@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @vv1lder.

Emily Wilder

Criminal justice and public safety 

Criminal justice is one of the most stirring and consequential systems, both in the North Bay and nationwide. Crime, policing, prosecution and incarceration have ripples that reach many parts of our lives, and these issues are under increasingly powerful microscopes. My goal is to uncover untold stories and understand the unique impacts of criminal justice and public safety on Sonoma County.

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