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San Luis Obispo seeks to add mental health clinician to expand city’s Community Action Team

Courtesy: City of San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo's current CAT includes Officer Tim Koznek (left) and social worker John Klevins (right).

The City of San Luis Obispo is looking to add another mental health clinician and specially-trained police officer to its Community Action Team (CAT).

The Community Action Team started in 2013 as a special unit within the Police Department. The team responds to calls for service involving community members who are suffering from a mental health crisis.

Kelsey Nocket is the homelessness response manager for the City of San Luis Obispo. She said public awareness surrounding the need for mental health services has grown, and expansion is really important for the team to be able to serve the community.

“Our officers are expected to respond to quite a few situations for which they don’t have specific training,” Nocket said. “So this enables a different kind of response that can more accurately target specific needs that qualify for a first responder. This is just a different level of first response.”

Right now, the team has one mental health clinician and one police officer. They partner to work with unhoused community members and other people dealing with severe mental health issues or substance abuse.

Nocket said the team works in a proactive approach right now — going out into the community, identifying needs and conducting outreach, often with the homeless. She said expanding the team would allow them to begin to respond reactively as well.

“So by calling a non-emergency dispatch line, or even calling 911 depending on the information you provide, we could deploy a CAT team to respond — again, appropriately — to situations that involve mental health and a safety component,” Nocket said.

Nocket said the city is receiving overwhelming support to expand the Community Action Team. She said the city is seeing a rise in the homeless population and is hearing concerns from the community.

“We’re taking the matter very seriously and trying to address it from multiple different angles,” Nocket said. “This is a really complex issue that requires a very targeted and flexible response.”

The City will spend upwards of $125,000 this fiscal year to expand the CAT. The annual ongoing cost is estimated at about $116,000.

Nocket said the city is looking to fill the position by contracting with a nonprofit organization or healthcare provider that already has qualified mental health clinicians on staff.

Click here for more information about how San Luis Obispo is addressing homelessness and mental health in the community.