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Deputies’ handling of mental health crisis in San Carlos cited as example of how approach is changing

in Community

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office says its recent response to a mental health crisis in San Carlos is an example of the effectiveness of a new training program and its alignment with recent changes to state law on police use of force.

On Friday, April 30, deputies responded to the 500 block of Quarry Road in San Carlos to conduct a welfare check on an individual was reported as possibly experiencing a mental health crisis and had a knife.

Upon arrival, deputies staged themselves a safe distance away. Meanwhile, they made phone calls to several people at the scene, including the subject’s social worker, and learned the person in distress had not threatened anyone, committed any crimes and wasn’t holding anyone against their will, the sheriff’s office said.

About an hour later, deputies decided “it was in everyone’s best interest that they disengage and leave the scene without forcing contact with the individual,” who had declined to speak with his social worker or with deputies on the phone, the sheriff’s office said.

The next day, deputies followed up with his social worker the following day and learned he had stabilized and was no longer experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the sheriff’s report.

This response highlights the San Mateo County Sheriffs Offices Enhanced Crisis Intervention Training program (ECIT) and how our crisis response has aligned with recent law changes (California AB392) as well as community expectations,” the sheriff’s office said. “Unless there is imminent danger or threats to others, deputies will conduct preassessments, gather as much information as possible, and form a plan for deescalation prior to attempting contact with individual in crisis. We understand the mere presence of uniformed deputies can escalate situations, and we will utilize time and distance whenever possible to assess the best course of action for each situation.”

In some cases, disengagement “is sometimes the best de-escalation option,” the sheriff’s office said.

“In many cases where mental illness is involved, crisis communication and verbal deescalation can prove to be challenging because their disability may affect their ability to understand or comply with commands from deputies,” officials said. “For this reason, disengagement in these cases is sometimes the best deescalation option. Deputies can then refer the case to the Sheriffs Office Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, who will then form a plan to contact the subject at a later time if appropriate, to assess for resources.