Doubling of City-County partnership will enable more effective response to situations involving mental illness.
Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced the expansion of the Los Angeles Police Department's SMART (System-Wide Mental Assessment Response Teams) program, which pairs LAPD officers with L.A. County mental health professionals to allow for a more thorough and compassionate response to incidents involving mental illness.
“We must do more to help Angelenos in crisis who are battling mental illness. SMART enables law enforcement to quickly and comprehensively respond to those important calls,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The program supports our officers’ efforts to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations, returns officers to the field more quickly, and helps Angelenos in need get the care and services they deserve. I’m grateful to our County partners for committing to this expansion, and we look forward to building on its success.”
The City and County of Los Angeles share personnel to assemble the SMART units. Each team consists of an LAPD officer accompanied by a psychologist, nurse or other clinician from the County Department of Mental Health. The teams respond specifically to incidents involving people who are mentally ill, or provide assistance to the responding officers in the field, with a goal of resolving incidents without incarceration or involuntary hospitalization.
“Our County is committed to humanely treating individuals with mental illness who come into contact with law enforcement; reduce incarceration rates for those whom treatment is more appropriate; and avoid adverse outcomes between law enforcement and those with mental illness,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The expansion will double the number of LAPD SMART units deployed in the field to 16 cars per day city-wide, seven days a week — enabling them to eventually cover up to 70 percent of all calls that involve people with mental illness.
In 2014, SMART units responded to more than 4,700 calls and saved more than 6,600 hours of patrol time for LAPD.
“The SMART team model — known as MET in the County — is an effective way to offer support to the mentally ill,” said Hilda Solis, Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. “The County’s recently-adopted plan to divert mentally ill individuals from the criminal justice system and into treatment programs has the potential to help many homeless individuals who suffer from mental disorders that then lead them to incarceration due to addictions or other behaviors. The city of Los Angeles and the county of Los Angeles both stand united in the belief that assisting mentally ill homeless individuals through treatment programs, instead of incarcerating them due to addictions and other behavioral patterns, is a more humane manner of treating these individuals, and in the long run, would help them get back on their feet to gain access to housing and other vital services.”
Support for the SMART program also comes from other components of LAPD’s Mental Health Evaluation Unit (MEU) — including the triage unit, which determines how to dispatch the SMART units most effectively; and the Case Assessment and Management Program (CAMP), which helps connect those coping with mental illnesses to professionals at the County Department of Mental Health.
“The LAPD’S innovative SMART program is a national model, and the City/County partnership that it has successfully fostered is helping us better serve, understand and assist people with mental health issues,” said Councilmember José Huizar, Co-Chair of the City’s Homelessness & Poverty Committee. “And in a City where roughly a third of all homeless individuals are dealing with mental health issues, it is critical that we continue to partner with Los Angeles County’s Mental Health Services, through this and other initiatives, to get people off the streets and into programs and treatment that allow them to live productive and dignified lives.”
The SMART expansion includes a significant commitment of resources from both the City and County. LAPD is allocating additional officers and patrol cars for the SMART teams, and the County is providing clinicians for the teams through state Mental Health Act (Prop. 63) funding.
“Nothing was more frustrating, when I was patrolling these streets as a Police Officer and as Captain, than not having the resources necessary to help a person when they needed the help,” said LAPD Chief Beck. “SMART units give us those tools, and I'm proud that we are collaborating on this important expansion."