Public Safety Commission wary of plans for Behavioral Crisis Response Unit

West Hollywood’s Public Safety Commission received a presentation regarding a proposed Behavioral Crisis Response Unit — a third emergency service operating independently and in collaboration with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department and West Hollywood Fire stations — to help address disturbances related to the city’s unhoused population.

The unit, according to city staff, would free up law enforcement and emergency services to focus on crime- and medical-related issues instead of behavioral issues, such as substance abuse and mental health, while diverting people away from incarceration.

“It’s clear that there’s an opportunity to enhance crisis services by broadening the expertise of first responders,” said Corri Planck, WeHo’s Strategic Initiatives Manager.

City staff are researching the feasibility of developing a new local phone number for all Behavioral Health Unit crisis response requests. That’s in addition to the state and federal efforts to establish a new 988 number to connect directly with suicide prevention support and other services.

The commissioners seemed wary of revamping the current system, and doubtful that the many elements required for the new department to work would ever be in place.

“Many of our residents call the direct sheriff’s station number instead of 9-1-1,” said Commissioner Kerri Balbone. “How would this integrate” with a new emergency number, she asked.

“The dispatch component is the most challenging. The ultimate goal is that there’s no wrong door to get your needs met,” said Elizabeth Anderson from WeHo Strategic Initiatives.

Balbone wondered where the line would be drawn between threat and non-threat — which instances would the crisis unit be needed, and when would the sheriff?

Commissioner Robert B. Oliver felt the need for suspects to submit voluntarily to the crisis unit would be problematic.

“Essentially, the people who need it the most may not be the people who accept the services voluntarily,” he said. “How effective can they be if it requires people to accept services?”

Commissioner Danny Roman was especially vocal in his opposition to the program.

“I’m trying to be positive with all this stuff but I think that the major problem here with this program is that if you don’t have a place to put these people, there’s no point for any of this, just stop all of this because it’s not going to go anywhere. These people are back on the street the next morning,” he said.

He especially doubted dispatch’s ability to distinguish the types of threats.

“When you’re talking about dispatchers, the 911 dispatchers, in West Hollywood don’t even know who Block by Block is they have no idea what that program is, they have no idea who they are, so now you’re asking them on top of that to now get to know this other program and to be able to dispatch calls from here — ‘oh this is a criminal, oh this is a mental health person’ — it’s just impossible. I’ve been living here for 20 year, I own two businesses here. It’s never, ever ever gonna work.”

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Dr. Meow Meow
Dr. Meow Meow
3 days ago

I’m surprised the Council wasn’t already aware of the trend away from sending police to assess mental health emergencies. This has been going on around the country for the past few years. It shows good results in that many people are afraid to call the police and have their loved one killed by a police officer due to perceived threat. These professionals have extensive training on threat analysis and deescalating as well as calling for backup if needed. It’s money well invested.

Manny
Manny
11 days ago

Yeah, let’s complicate communication even more. Call the Sheriff, don’t call the Sheriff, call 911, don’t call 911, call Block by Block, (what’s Bock by Block?) call the Security Ambassadors (wait!, Block by Block are the Security Ambassadors) call that Human Services thing that has an answering machine, call the fire department, even if it’s not a fire?…..LA or County?

JF1
JF1
11 days ago
Reply to  Manny

Exactly.

Defund the Block By Block
Defund the Block By Block
11 days ago
Reply to  JF1

How can we trust our elected officials with our safety? crime is up everywhere in the city they don’t seem to be doing. It seems like public safety answer is to adding more ambassadors. Email Public Safety Commissioners and Director Kristin Cook to put an end to Block by Block and it’s dysfunctional program that has been rocked by its own scandal and cover ups. Ambassadors accused of raping a female at West Hollywood Park, drinking and making purchases at dispensaries, removal of former operations manager David Aguilar. Ambassadors are a bunch of thugs under the leadership of their ex-con… Read more »

Evil Eye
Evil Eye
6 days ago

What happened to the COPPS Program which was effective. How does the city rationalize Block by Block pseudo Ambassadors. This is some euphemism to have the public believe something positive is happening when it is merely another layer of bureaucratic subterfuge.

Keep WEHO Safe
Keep WEHO Safe
12 days ago

What good are the ambassador’s going do in a crisis ? They’re not trained professionals they are security guards with no peace officer powers. They have no right to be harassing the homeless in the city.
Emergency and public safety should be left to the professionals and that’s the LA County sheriffs and fire.
The ambassadors are a bunch of useless thugs like their managers. Let’s cut ambassadors program and increase the number of sheriffs and install surveillance cameras throughout the city like Beverly Hills.

JF1
JF1
12 days ago

Behavioral issues that require someone calling an emergency number tends to be more violent in nature. People responding that are there to “talk“ and provide services will find out quick enough that they need armed assistance. Back to square one. We should be building mental health and substance abuse facilities and work to change the laws to place people into those facilities so they can get the help they so desperately need.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
12 days ago

I have to say I am impressed by the Commission’s healthy sense of skepticism. Rather just rubber stamping another staff proposal, which has often been the norm at all levels of WeHo government, these Commissioners had the moxie to ask hard questions and focus on whether this program is viable or just another case of window dressing.
While this program may have some genuine benefits, the process works better when programs undergo rigorous scrutiny. This is how the system is supposed to work. Good job!

Matti
Matti
12 days ago

The critiques all sound very sensible. Happy to see thoughtful analysis on this commission.

I think this idea is trying to address a moral issue; should our city’s first response to quality of life issues, mental illness, or transients be law enforcement? Perhaps not. But does this alternative actually provide solutions to these problems? I think this is where this idea falls apart upon a closer look.

Crookies
Crookies
12 days ago

Social workers Vs Meth addled schizophrenic MMA

* popcorn.gif*

Weakest Link
Weakest Link
12 days ago

Public Safety in West Hollywood is as strong as its weakest link.

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