City and county officials announce new funding for the Resource Action Program. Photo courtesy San Diego Fire-Rescue

The city and county announced a partnership Monday to address staffing and capacity concerns for a program that assists frequent 911 callers and reduces the strain on the county’s emergency response centers.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department‘s Resource Access Program was launched as a pilot in 2008 and has both contracted and expanded since. The program connects frequent 911 callers, many of whom deal with homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse and other medical issues, to local health and housing services.

According to the city, roughly 90% of people in the RAP who call 911 more than 30 times annually are homeless. Although the program’s members make up fewer than 1% of the city’s population, they generate roughly 20% of its 911 calls.

“Using a data-driven approach, we are identifying those San Diegans who need specialized care and connecting them with the help they need so they don’t have to call 911,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “It’s a shining example of how the city and county can work together to find solutions to our region’s mental health crisis.”

The program was reduced its size in 2017 due to a lack of funding, according to the city. As a result, the number of patients with more than fifty 911 calls per year increased from one in 2016 to 26 in 2018. Last month, the program added six new positions as the city and county aim to restore its effectiveness to a level similar to earlier in the decade.

“Our region needs action tackling the challenges of providing mental health services and this city-county collaboration is critical to helping meet that need,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “Teams of trained medical and mental health professionals from the county and city through the Resource Access Program can quickly take action to help people experiencing a behavioral health emergency. This partnership exemplifies a great spirit of cooperation and progress.”

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.