The city of Stockton and Community Medical Centers recently introduced the city’s first ever mobile crisis intervention response pilot program, aiming to assist people who are grappling with mental health or social service needs.

Community Medical Centers will launch the program this month in downtown Stockton and said it eventually hopes to have four vans providing services throughout the city around the clock seven days a week.

The three-year pilot program will allow the Community Medical Centers response team to aid 911 dispatchers and law enforcement during calls that deal with mental health issues or behavioral health challenges to not only manage a crisis but also provide follow-up services for people.

“Specifically, this is going to help us from a public health standpoint better respond to calls for service that have to do with some sort of behavioral health challenge, in addition to certain types of calls that are domestic related,” said Mayor Kevin Lincoln.

Alfonso Apu, behavioral health director at Community Medical Centers, said the program will first pilot with one team comprising a licensed clinical social worker, a case manager, a community health worker and a medical assistant, who, even after resolving the crisis, will have check-ins with the community member 48 hours, seven days and 30 days after the initial crisis.

Community members check out the inside of the Care Link van during its unveiling at Stockton Ballpark on Nov. 3, 2022. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Apu said they are trying to develop a process where they can identify which calls are most appropriate for the response team.

For example, if 911 dispatchers receive a call, police could first go to the scene to get an understanding of what is happening, then assess if it is safe for the CMC team to take over.

“Eventually there will be other calls that will be directly funneled to the CMC team through a specific number and through a process where our team will be on-call to receive those calls,” Apu said.

Objectives for the program include decreasing repeat callers, increasing follow-ups with wraparound services, decreasing the fear or hesitance to call police, building more community trust, decreasing costs related to 911 calls and diverting people away from the criminal justice system.

The program was made possible with $5.76 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, according to the CMC.

“When the city received American Rescue Plan Act funding, we recognized immediately that there is significant need in Stockton to address mental health issues that face many members of our community,” Stockton City Manager Harry Black said.