Sierra Mental Wellness Group and Nevada County Behavioral Health presented two original co-responder pilot program team members a plaque in appreciation of their outstanding service in starting a Mobile Crisis Teams program. Nevada County Deputy Sheriff Galen Spittler and Mental Health Clinician Ernesto Alvarado were honored August 29 at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley.
Spittler and Alvarado were critical in launching the successful Mobile Crisis Teams program in late 2020. Before that time, a deputy would respond to a call alone, attempt to evaluate a person in mental health crisis and often detain people in crisis and transport them to a crisis stabilization unit at the hospital. By having a clinician embedded with patrol staff, it allows more comprehensive on-site evaluation, de-escalation, and connection to additional services when needed. This often avoids having to remove people in crisis from their home environment if they don’t meet criteria for a hold, and can help diffuse a situation before it becomes worse.
The clinicians are hired by Sierra Mental Wellness Group under contract with Nevada County Behavioral Health, and assigned to the sheriff's Operations Division Mobile Crisis Team. The program was expanded to two teams in 2021. While there are similar co-responder programs in California, it's rare that a small agency such as the Nevada County Sheriff's Office has such a program.
Both Spittler and Alvarado are moving on from the Mobile Crisis Teams to new challenges. Spittler is now a Nevada County Sheriff's Detective and Alvarado has merged his skills as a clinician with his new path as a sworn peace officer, following his recent graduation from the police academy. Alvarado will continue to be a valuable partner in Nevada County Public Safety, as a Grass Valley police officer.