A mental health response unit on wheels known as Be Well OC launched in Huntington Beach on August 2nd. In partnership with the city, the initiative hopes to redirect mental health and substance abuse calls from police and first responders to trained mental health professionals that can offer specialized resources, support, and kindness to those in need.
Mayor Kim Carr told the Daily Pilot, “Our first responders do an admirable job of addressing these types of calls. However, they receive over 15,000 calls like this every year [in Huntington Beach], and those calls divert time away from other public safety issues. Rather than continuing to send first responders to non-emergency mental health situations, Be Well OC will bridge that gap and serve the need immediately.”
Aside from ensuring that first responders’ focus and attention be spent where it’s needed most, the implementation of the Be Well OC mobile crisis unit aims to lead with kindness, ensuring that people struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders receive the help that they need. The city hopes to direct these individuals to supportive resources that will lead to long-term recovery and avoid unnecessary incarceration.
A formerly homeless woman, Erin Brooke Lee, shared her experience working with Be Well OC in an interview with the Daily Pilot, stating, “They worked with me for about a week. They brought me food, checked on me, asked if I needed anything. Every time they came back they offered a new resource or a new offer. They were instrumental in pretty much taking away the fear.” Lee is no longer living out of her vehicle and is now staying at the Navigation Center, illustrating just one of countless heartwarming success stories that have sprouted from Be Well OC’s kind approach.
Since its launch, the Be Well OC van has been cruising the streets of Huntington Beach, offering services to the local community from 8 am to 8 pm daily. Chi hopes the city will be able to afford a second van by the end of 2021, increasing operating capacity to 24 hours a day.
Community response to the initiative continues to be positive as the issues of mental health and substance abuse hit close to home for many. The need for public services like Be Well OC is great and local officials have high hopes that this program will be a trailblazer for policy changes state and nationwide.
As fellow Orange County natives, community efforts around mental health and wellness are very dear to our hearts, especially those that are rooted in kindness. We’re sending a giant ‘Thank you’ to the city of Huntington Beach and Be Well OC, for all their hard work and dedication in cultivating a kinder, more compassionate world!