Palo Alto City Council Greenlights Three-Year Extension Of PERT Mental Health Call Program

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PERT Mental Health Call Program

In November 2021, Palo Alto introduced its first Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) with the hope of revolutionizing its approach to assisting individuals facing acute mental health crises. Comprising a Santa Clara County clinician and a Palo Alto police officer, the PERT mental health call program demonstrated significant promise in its early stages.

Handling 99 calls for service, conducting 68 follow-up visits, and diverting 22 individuals from potential psychiatric hospitalization without resorting to force or criminal arrests, the program showcased its potential.

However, an unforeseen challenge emerged when the clinician stepped down in November 2022, abruptly halting the program’s operations. The subsequent search for a replacement clinician has yet to yield results.

Despite this setback, Palo Alto’s City Council recently demonstrated unwavering support for the PERT program by not only extending it for three years but also by approving the addition of a second PERT team.

Furthermore, the city committed to covering the expenses of the second PERT clinician once hired.

The unanimous approval of this agreement on September 11th marked a pivotal moment for Palo Alto, solidifying its dedication to enhancing its mental health response capabilities. Under the terms of the contract, the city is set to reimburse the county for up to $183,000 annually for the duration of the three-year agreement.

Pending approval from the county Board of Supervisors, Palo Alto will initiate the process of recruiting clinicians to staff both PERT teams.

Captain James Reifschneider of the Palo Alto police shared that this development signifies a significant step forward in bolstering the city’s mental health crisis intervention efforts.

The Promise of PERT Mental Health Call Program 

The inception of Palo Alto’s PERT program in 2021 signaled a paradigm shift in the city’s approach to mental health crises.

By pairing clinicians with police officers, the initiative aimed to provide a more compassionate and effective response to individuals facing acute mental health challenges.

The initial results were promising, with the program successfully handling numerous service calls, conducting follow-up visits, and preventing psychiatric hospitalizations without resorting to force or arrests.

However, the sudden departure of the clinician in November 2022 presented an unforeseen obstacle, prompting a hiatus in the program’s operations. Despite this setback, Palo Alto’s commitment to addressing mental health crises remained resolute.

The Palo Alto City Council’s recent unanimous vote in favor of extending and expanding the PERT program underscores its unwavering support for enhancing mental health crisis intervention services.

By extending the program for an additional three years, Palo Alto seeks to build on the initial success it achieved during the program’s inception.

The addition of a second PERT team demonstrates the city’s commitment to expanding its mental health response capabilities.

Recognizing the critical need for such services, the council approved the allocation of resources to cover the expenses associated with hiring a second PERT clinician.

Palo Alto’s investment in the PERT program reflects a broader commitment to improving mental health services within the community.

The decision to extend the program and add a second team aligns with the city’s goal of ensuring that individuals in crisis receive the support and assistance they need during their most vulnerable moments.

Pending approval from the county Board of Supervisors, Palo Alto is poised to take the next steps in realizing its vision for an enhanced mental health crisis intervention system.

The recruitment of clinicians to staff both PERT teams will play a pivotal role in expanding the city’s capacity to address acute mental health challenges effectively.

Captain Reifschneider emphasized the significance of this development, highlighting the city’s dedication to fostering a compassionate and responsive approach to mental health crises.

With the approval of the contract, Palo Alto is poised to make meaningful strides in its efforts to provide crucial support to individuals facing mental health crises.

In conclusion, Palo Alto’s unwavering commitment to enhancing its mental health crisis intervention capabilities is exemplified by the extension and expansion of the PERT program.

By investing in this vital initiative, the city aims to ensure that individuals facing acute mental health challenges receive the support and care they need.

Pending approval, Palo Alto is primed to take substantial steps toward achieving its vision of a more compassionate and effective mental health crisis intervention system.


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