NAACP urges changes to Berkeley mental health services

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Berkeley City Council will consider making modifications to the city’s mental health services after it discusses recommendations from a Berkeley NAACP study at a work session Tuesday.

The report, which was released this summer, concluded that a number of changes need to be made to city policies and departments in order to improve mental health services and ensure equal treatment and support for minority groups.

There is evidence, the report said, that black mental health patients receive inappropriate treatment, noting that the city should hire more black and Latino health professionals to mitigate the problem.

Among the NAACP’s recommendations discussed at the City Council meeting earlier this week was a suggestion to implement a policy of “nonpolice involvement” in mental health cases, except in life-threatening matters.

The report recommends implementing 24/7 operations of the mental health Mobile Crisis Team, a group that works in crisis intervention throughout the community.

Maria Moore — the sister of Kayla Moore, a transgender individual who died in Berkeley Police Department custody earlier this year — spoke in support of this idea at the council meeting. She said the Mobile Crisis Team often helped Kayla when her family reached out to it.

“The one time that Mobile Crisis was not there, the police arrived — but they didn’t want to listen,” she said in a public comment session at the meeting. “They didn’t want to hear, they didn’t want to be counselors. They wanted to lay down the law.”

Berkeley Copwatch member Russell Bates said that while police may serve as useful backup to mental health workers, they are usually not necessary.

“It just seems like that would be the best way to deal with anything except an armed confrontation,” he said, referring to a community-based crisis intervention team. “Violence is not always the best way to deal with violence or with a violent person.”

Another issue the report identified was the lack of a separate city health services department. According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, health services were combined with housing and community services in one department a few years ago due to budget cuts.

While the council members expressed support for the recommendations, they did not vote on the implementation of the recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting.

Worthington said he thinks the public comments session was not enough time for the NAACP to fully present its findings.

“The least we can do is show them a little respect and give them the chance to give a serious explanation of their suggestions,” he said, “to give them a chance, with grace and dignity, to actually talk for more than one minute and give a comprehensive presentation of their proposals.”


Contact Tahmina Achekzai at [email protected]