Los Angeles County’s chief mental health official is working to reduce the number of emergency calls his staff forwards to police, a practice that has grown over the last year as fewer hospital beds have been available to treat such patients, reports the Los Angeles Times. Hospitals are required by law to take emergency mental health patients transported by police. If a county mental health worker brings people in for treatment, facilities are not compelled to accept them.
There are 2,562 beds available for mental health patients in Los Angeles County, and only about 200 of them were at county hospitals, which are required to admit poor and uninsured patients. Mental health staff responded to 10,003 calls this year. The increased police response to mental health emergencies was first reported in the Los Angeles Daily Journal. Critics of the current emergency response system for the mentally ill, including law enforcement officers, said county supervisors should demand a more immediate fix.