As part of Chancellor Carol Christ’s Reimagining Campus and Community Safety Initiative, the Campus Mobile Crisis Response team was soft-launched in April 2023 and with the goal of serving the calls of students, faculty and staff.
The response team currently consists of clinicians who directly work with UCPD to address nonemergent mental health interventions and assessments. Overall, the team is striving to provide comprehensive crisis evaluations while reducing the strain on police services, said UHS spokesperson Tami Cate in an email.
Oftentimes, in cases of mental health crises, UCPD initiates a 5150 evaluation, or involuntary detainment, due to a lack of knowledge on how to address such crises. According to Russ Ballati, senior project manager of project management, this can be traumatic for the individual.
“Working together is really the ultimate goal here and to reduce the number of calls that a uniformed officer needs to respond to,” Ballati said. “It’s a huge benefit to everybody because UCPD doesn’t have the staff to be able to respond to these types of calls, nor do they have the experience to respond.”
In order to receive feedback on the continuously developing program, Ballati said project team leaders meet with key stakeholders, an independent advisory board, campus safety partners, ASUC and the Campus Mobile Response advisory board.
Due to the program’s slow roll-out, Ballati noted the team hopes to bring more awareness of the services by informing students and resident assistants living in dormitories.
“It’s really hard to have criticisms about the program because the intentions of it are great,” Ballati said. “The important part is that we are able to implement the whole vision of the program and we’re working to do that.”
Looking to the program’s official launch in March 2024, Cate said the next phase of the program will begin once the teams are fully staffed by EMTs and clinicians.
Additional transportation methods will include a golf cart for campus responses and a hybrid vehicle for off-campus locations, according to Ballati.
Ballati mentioned the response team will eventually be operational 24/7 and provide services to the entire Berkeley community.
However, Ballati noted the main obstacle to this goal is the difficulty of acquiring jurisdiction to serve the community given that the team is not a medical facility.
“They’re expecting a pretty big increase based on the number of people in crisis today that they’re serving at UHS and the CAPS program,” Ballati said. “It has really been an unfortunate, but probably expected ramp up in need with students and community members. We seem to need a lot more mental support these days, which makes a lot of sense.”