With a growing population of homeless and those experiencing mental illness in the city, the Beverly Hills City Council discussed the implementation of a new Mental Health Evaluation Team (MET) at its May 17 Special Study Session. The MET is a collaboration between the City of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles County, pairing a licensed clinical social worker with a Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) officer to provide timely, proactive, and reactive outreach seven days a week to those in the community struggling with mental health issues, prevalent among the unhoused.
To fund and establish the team, a budget enhancement request of $742,079 will be brought before the City Council at its upcoming Budget Meeting on May 24. Additionally, the Council directed staff to draft a letter on their behalf in support of SB1338 (“Care Court”), a California Senate bill that would create civil mental health courts in each of the state’s 58 counties to provide health care for people with mental illness.
The Council also reviewed the Proposed Capital Improvement budget for fiscal year 2022-23 and the proposed five-year Capital Improvement Projects Plan (CIP) budget. The CIP budget presented by staff for next year saw an increase of $7.8 million from last year’s adopted budget, due to projects like the Real Time Watch Center, City Hall tower construction, Cabrillo Pump Station, reservoir management, sidewalk improvement projects and more. New projects for next year include building affordable housing and remodeling the Public Works building. Next week, staff will present the proposed operating budget, which will go before the Council for adoption on June 14.
“The unhoused population in Beverly Hills seems to be increasing, which is likely due to a variety of factors, including recent efforts by other local jurisdictions to clear unhoused encampments,” Beverly Hills Assistant City Manager Nancy Hunt-Coffey said. “There have been a number of these sort of clearing of encampments over the last couple of years, including earlier this year, where an encampment in nearby Westwood Park was cleared.”
The proposed budget for the MET will fund two licensed mental health professionals and fund one of two specially trained police officers, working on two teams of two. Both teams will have the capacity to provide field-based care as well as write involuntary holds for anyone presenting a danger to themselves or others. Similar to the Nurse Practitioner Program, the MET team would provide follow-up aid and care to those who may have first engaged with the city via an emergency call.
“This has been a very important discussion and something that has mattered to all my colleagues,” said Mayor Lili Bosse, who requested the item be placed on the agenda. “In terms of mental health, in terms of the unhoused, we as a community have worked very hard over all the years that I’ve been involved in the city.”
This week, the city launched a Special Alert Registry, a secure safety tool designed to help BHPD officers who encounter community members with disabilities including, but not limited to Autism, Schizophrenia, dementia, deafness, or any other mental and developmental disabilities.
The Registry is intended for residents to disclose information regarding medications, emergency contact information, physical descriptions, known routines, favorite attractions, special needs and more to assist officers in communicating with, finding a residence for, or handling a situation involving an individual with special needs. To register, visit https://www.beverlyhills.org/departments/policedepartment/onlineservices/specialalertregistry/.
“I think this is really good because the more information we can give our police and firefighters when they’re responding to a call, if they’re potentially dealing with someone with mental illness, to get that before they even get there is very, very critical,” BHPD Chief Mark Stainbrook said of the Special Alert Registry.
While the MET program is expected to go into effect around August or September, Mayor Bosse directed staff to return next month with alternative measures to assist homeless in the interim. If a member of the public sees someone in need of these services, they can call the Beverly Hills outreach team at 310-487-0313.
Like last year’s budget process, city staff presented the City Council with the CIP budget and two new CIP items. Following the April 26 City Council priority setting session, the Council directed staff to make affordable housing a priority. As a result, a new CIP was added with an initial funding of $0.5 million for the upcoming year to address initial planning and predevelopment costs to develop affordable housing. As the plan unfolds, funding of the CIP for future years will be established. The second new project earmarked another $0.5 million to remodel the second floor of the Public Works Building on Foothill Road and replace old furniture.
“There’s also the current year appropriation that was adopted, of $63.3 million, as well as approximately $198 million that has been carried over from prior years,” said Director of Finance Jeff Muir. “So overall, this plan represents about $638 million in capital investment in Beverly Hills in the coming years.”
“So, we’re really just setting aside money for future projects,” Councilman Lester Friedman said. “We’re being proactive in terms of funding them in advance, because we know that we’re going to need this project either sometime three, four or five years down the line, or perhaps next year if it was something imminent.”