A new pilot project in the San Ramon Valley aims to have firefighters and paramedics respond to non-violent mental health emergencies instead of police officers -- a program the Danville Town Council plans to discuss on Tuesday evening.
Created amid national and local debate over police responses to mental health emergencies, the program seeks to reduce avoidable law enforcement engagements by training firefighters and emergency paramedics to respond to non-violent mental health emergencies rather than armed police.
"San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District is proud of the service and level of care we provide our community and feel that we play an integral role in the healthcare system as patient advocates," SRVFPD staff said in a report on the program to the Town Council.
"As communities across the nation adapt to the increase in demand for better mental health care, the clear message is the need for change. Partnering with the Danville and San Ramon police departments, we are excited to be innovative leaders in the creation of an efficient and effective solution," they added.
SRVFPD Fire Chief Paige Meyer will be on hand during Tuesday's meeting to discuss the finer points of the plan, which includes the implementation of a specialized mental health and tactical training education plan.
At its core, the plan involves training first responders to identify mental health emergencies early and when appropriate direct firefighters and paramedics to respond to non-violent emergencies over local police -- who will still be dispatched when a patient suffering from a crisis is believed to pose a threat to themselves or others.
Once first responders are on the scene of a non-violent emergency, they can provide care to the patient or in certain cases can connect them with video conferencing technology that will allow them to communicate with experts capable of assessment and de-escalation.
The San Ramon City Council already voiced its support for the pilot project during its regular meeting on May 11, with council members saying they were thrilled that the fire district and San Ramon Police Department were working together to improve service to residents facing mental health crises.
The Danville Police Department has faced national scrutiny over the past several months, after one of its officers fatally shot two men in separate incidents 2-1/2 years apart whom family members argue were suffering mental health emergencies at the time.
That officer, Contra Costa County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Hall, was charged this April with felony counts of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a semiautomatic weapon in connection with the shooting death of 33-year-old Newark resident Laudemer Arboleda in November 2018.
Hall is also under investigation by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office for the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Tyrell Wilson, a man living outdoors near Interstate 680 in Danville who approached Hall with a knife in hand on March 11 -- about a month before Hall was charged and taken into custody in the Arboleda case.
The Danville Town Council's regular meeting is set to be held virtually at 5 p.m. Tuesday (June 1).
Interested residents can view the meeting via video teleconferencing app Zoom using Webinar ID 833 7919 3653.
In other business
Council members also plan to meet for a special budget study session prior to the start of their regular meeting, where they will review the 2021-22 operating budget.
That meeting is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. and will be held in-person at the Danville Community Center, 420 Front St.