By Miri Valenzuela
In Berkeley, individuals facing mental health or substance abuse crises now have access to a range of crisis services designed to provide support without law enforcement involvement. Instead of calling 911 to report a mental health emergency, you can now reach out to the Specialized Care Unit at (510) 948-0075 for assistance. The SCU is equipped to respond to a range of behavioral crises in both adults and minors, such as thoughts of suicide or self-harm, concerns related to substance use, depression, anxiety, and dramatic mood changes.
About the Specialized Care Unit
This specialized unit, operated by Bonita House, is staffed by trained professionals and is available from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm, seven days a week, with plans to expand to 24/7 availability. The team is made up of a mental health clinician, peer specialists, and emergency medical technician. In addition, the services provided by the SCU are available to all members of the Berkeley community and are generally accessible without the need of health insurance or payment.
This initiative is part of Berkeley’s efforts to re-imagine public safety and provide non-law enforcement options for those in crisis. The Specialized Care Unit will also engage in active outreach, distributing information about their services throughout the community.
What to Expect When You Call
Individuals in need or someone seeking help for someone in crisis can call (510) 948-0075 to connect with the Specialized Care Unit. When you make this call, staff will gather basic information and ask about the nature of the crisis. They will inquire about the individual’s history, behaviors, and medication history to assess the situation comprehensively. After an evaluation, the team will determine the kind of support the individual needs and will arrange for transportation or any other necessary services.
In addition, you may be referred to an appropriate mental health resource or offered services within one of the City of Berkeley’s Mental Health programs. The individual making the call will always have agency to accept or decline the recommendations of the SCU, and if services are refused, the team will conclude their service unless staff observes behavior that puts the individual in danger. In these types of cases, the staff member will have the responsibility to call 911 to ensure the individual’s safety.
The Specialized Care Unit (SCU) is said to offer a valuable resource for crisis intervention during specific hours and focuses on providing non-police support. Additionally, the Crisis, Assessment, and Triage (CAT) team provides further avenues for individuals to seek assistance and is accessible through various channels. By offering these resources, Berkeley aims to address mental health crises with care and an understanding of the unique challenges individuals may face.
Resources and Links:
If you believe someone would benefit from the City’s standard crisis services, you can contact the Crisis, Assessment, and Triage (CAT) team at (510) 981-5244 or via email at MentalHealth@berkeleyca.gov. Additionally, the Adult Mental Health Clinic at 2640 Martin Luther King Jr Way is open for walk-ins from Monday to Thursday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.
For inquiries or additional information about the SCU program, individuals can reach out via email at HHCS@berkeleyca.gov.
Berkeley Mental Health Care Services (https://berkeleyca.gov/safety-health/mental-health/accessing-mental-health-services)
Crisis Services Link (https://berkeleyca.gov/safety-health/mental-health/crisis-services)
Miri Valenzuela is a writer for the Vanguard at Berkeley’s Social Justice Desk.