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Law enforcement teams up with PERT clinicians

Addition of mental health professionals at a crisis helps diffuse situation

Karen Ossenfort

Special to the Village News

A face becoming familiar at emergency call scenes is that of a PERT first responder.

The Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) member often is called to the scene by law enforcement if deemed needed. Both law enforcement and PERT act together with people who are in a behavioral health crisis. The goal of PERT is compassionate crisis intervention.

"If deputies call for PERT and need a clinician, we ask for one," said Lt. Aldo Hernandez of the Fallbrook Substation.

"When I first got here I tried to get a (PERT) clinician up here, but there were none available at that time," Hernandez said, adding that if they ever send a clinician up, they'll get a deputy trained to pair up with one.

According to the Community Research foundation website, "In the early 1990's, there were several officer involved shootings and critical incidents involving persons living with mental illness. Recognizing the gap in collaboration between law enforcement and mental health providers, the community at large, persons living with mental illness, family members, San Diego County HHSA (Health and Human Services Agency), and law enforcement agencies convened to recommend that law enforcement offices receive additional training beyond police academy State mandates in recognizing and responding to persons experiencing mental health issues and acquire clinical support from mental health professionals."

"PERT is the result of an exceptional collaboration of community partners. Today, PERT is funded through San Diego County HHSA to provide 70 licensed behavioral health clinicians partnered with law enforcement and two licensed behavioral health clinicians partnered with San Diego Fire & Rescue-Resource Access Program," it stated.

North County Fire Protection District does not have its own PERT clinician, however, according to NCFPD spokesperson John Choi, they utilize PERT through the San Diego Sheriffs for the request, which is generally accompanied by an officer being on the scene, confirming that it is a PERT-level call.

"Generally, SDSO is already on scene and once we medically clear the patient and deem it to be a PERT call, the patient is transferred to SDSO," Choi explained.

PERT is authorized to provide 72 licensed mental health professionals who are teamed with PERT-trained law enforcement officers/deputies throughout the county.

PERT partners with Oceanside Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Escondido Police Department, San Diego Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, Harbor Police, and more including military police and campus police.

Once on scene, a PERT clinician works alongside an officer. After the officer checks out a situation in regards to safety for all involved, and clears it, a PERT clinician can then work assisting the person to fill out a mental health screening, or obtain relevant psychiatric and substance abuse history. With that information, the PERT clinician can assess and recommend a course of action to help the person.

The person in need oftentimes is offered additional resources and referrals, depending on the situation. The act of listening to the person, filling out their forms, finding them resources, all equate to needed assistance for that person, and helps to diffuse the situation at hand, a spokesperson said.

PERT Fiscal Year 2019/2020

Made 35,701 community contacts

Provided 12,340 crisis interventions:

Of which 5,750 or 47% were diverted from code 5150 hospital transport

23,361 community service interventions

9,413 crisis intervention to those considered homeless

PERT attempted crisis resolution contact but unable to do so, an additional 7,695 times (thus a total of 20,035 crisis interventions attempted)

Information from Community Research Foundation


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