Los Angeles rolls out program for mental health workers to respond to 911 calls

Activists have called for more non-police to respond to emergency calls.

Updated: March 5, 2022 - 5:16pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Los Angeles is rolling out a program in which mental health workers will respond to 911 calls, a move that comes after several years of activist efforts to have psychiatric workers respond to local emergencies.

The city’s Therapeutic Transportation program, which has been in development for several years, offers “a supportive and expedited alternative to the transportation needs of acute mentally ill clients requiring involuntary holds,” the city says

The program will permit mental health workers to respond to mental health calls in lieu of law enforcement, which authorities claim is a better deployment of city resources. 

“We know that mental health is best treated by mental health experts,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said this week. “Oftentimes, seeing a badge can trigger people’s trauma even more.”

Garcetti said the program has thus far responded to over 100 calls, with about a fifth of those resulting in on-scene treatment and release, and a little over 10 percent resulting in hospitalization. 

The program, according to L.A. Fire Chief Ralph Terraza, allows officials to “reduce the time that our paramedics are waiting in emergency rooms for an available bed,” which will “help ease overcrowding at the hospitals.”