TCOE expands mental health crisis help for youth

Tulare County Health and Human Services partners with Tulare County Office of Education to create Mobile Crisis Unit, expands help to youth under 21 throughout the county

TULARE COUNTY – As the mental health crisis continues to rise, especially amongst youth, the county of Tulare and the Office of Education partner to provide students better access to mental health services.

On March 14, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the Tulare County Superintendent of Schools for a Mobile Crisis Services unit. The service is for children and youth under 21. Through the development of this program, the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency’s Mental Health Branch seeks to reduce the number of hospitalizations and incarcerations. According to the staff report it also aims to increase the services provided at first contact and increase access to mental health services in the community. John Vining is the clinical supervisor who oversees the TCOE behavioral health and crisis services said he is excited about this additional level of access for students around the county.

“I think this is going to be an absolutely amazing resource that we have here in the county,” Vining said. “We’re super excited to get out there and be visible in our schools and in the communities to help these kids, get to a safe place and get them access to mental health [services].”

The agreement is retroactive from Nov. 1, 2022 through June 30, 2027 and for an amount not to exceed $3,666,074. This partnership and funding will be used to staff the TCOE mobile crisis team with four and a quarter full-time equivalent staff and provide one new vehicle. All that needs to be done for the mobile crisis unit to start operating is the hiring of the additional employees. It is an expansion of the current field based services mental health program.

Field based services currently employs two full time employees who have been serving youth in the community since October 2021. Once the mobile crisis unit is up and operating, field based services will continue to operate as well according to Vining. The main difference in the two units, is the mobile crisis unit will serve as a more general dispatch allowing greater access to those in need.

Currently the field based services receive calls and are dispatched only through three mental health partners. Those include Tulare County Mental Health Clinics, contracted Tulare County Mental Health clinics and the county’s psychiatric emergency team according to Vining. However, the mobile crisis unit will have the capability to respond to calls from across the county and any entity who calls claiming there is a need.

“They are going to be able to field calls from anyone in Tulare County, they do not just have to rely on the county clinics, county contracted clinics or the county crisis team, they can field calls directly from schools, families, the county crisis team, clinics, county contracted clinics, hospitals,” Vining said.  “So they can be a definite direct dispatch to us.”

The staff report stated the mobile crisis unit will work, collaborate and support the Tulare County Access Line and the 988 crisis call line. TCOE is one of HHSA’s educational partners that has experience in providing crisis services to children and youth.

According to the staff report, the total cost of the TCOE Mobile Crisis Teams program throughout fiscal years 2022-2027 will be $3,666,074. The program will be partially funded with $1,704,454 from the California Health Facilities Financing Authority (CHFFA) grant award which was applied for in 2021. The next largest sum of $1,078,197 will be funded through Federal Financial Participation and $883,424 will be funded from the County’s Mental Health 1991 Realignment allocation. The expenses and revenues for this program for fiscal year 2022/23 are included in the approved budget.

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