South Bay residents fight to make mental health crisis services more accessible

There’s a growing call to make mental health crisis services more accessible to people in Santa Clara County and it has to do with a phone number.

In 2014, San Jose State University police shot and killed Antonio Guzman Lopez after someone reported he appeared to be acting erratically.

“The police came, arrived, and shot him dead,” said Guzman Lopez’s partner, Laurie Valdez of Silicon valley Debug. 

She believes he would be alive today if mental health specialists had responded instead of police.

In 2022, Santa Clara County launched TRUST, which provides a non-police response to people having a mental health crisis.

The  program’s behavioral health specialists have already helped more than 1,500 people. But Valdez says that currently, people have to dial 988, then navigate a phone tree that could end with policy responding.   

Instead, she wants the county to offer a direct public line without police involvement.

“In order for us to be able to ensure that people that are calling in a time of crisis have direct access to TRUST and can be met with care and concern, instead of guns and violence,” said Valdez. 

Michelle Pelayo-Osorio, deputy chief of policy for Supervisor Otto Lee, said people have faced challenges with the current system.

“It’s frustrating when you are looking for direct services for behavioral health when those needs are escalated inside your home. So you have somebody that might be in a situation, or suicidal, or somebody that’s locked in a room and sometimes, 911 is not the solution,” she said. 

On Tuesday, after dozens of speakers voiced support for a direct line, the supervisors voted to investigate the costs and logistics and vote on the issue in February.

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