The Alameda County Board of Supervisors recently approved a proposal to designate Alameda Health System’s San Leandro and Alameda Hospital, the University of California Berkeley Student Health Center and the Oakland Behavioral Health Clinic as 5150 hold facilities.

“Having these other facilities with the designation will reduce wait times for treatment, ensure people aren’t transferred to John George unless absolutely necessary and allow us to provide better behavioral health services to our patient population,” said Karyn Tribble, PsyD, LCSW, chief administrative officer for behavioral health services at AHS.

The 5150 code allows someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis to be involuntarily detained for a 72- hour psychiatric hold. Alameda County has one of the highest 5150 incident rates in the state of California, in part due to efforts to train law enforcement personnel to recognize an individual’s need for behavioral health services rather than incarceration. Prior to its approval by the Board of Supervisors, the only facilities at AHS that were able to provide this care were Highland Hospital and John George Psychiatric Hospital.

“When a person that is thought to be dealing with a psychiatric emergency is brought to a facility that does not have a 5150 designation, he or she will have to wait to be transported to a location that can provide this service. Law enforcement will have to be involved in the transfer and this can lead to the person in crisis waiting longer to receive the treatment they need,” said Tribble. “With the approval from the Alameda County Board, this will create greater access for patients who need this emergency care.”

In recommending this designation, Alameda County Behavioral Health (ACBH) has required that these 5150 designated facilities initiate or release a 5150 hold based upon a patient consultation with a psychiatrist. That consult may be performed in person with the patient or through telepsychiatry.

Last year, ACBH awarded AHS behavioral health services a grant to purchase telehealth psychiatry equipment on site. Previously, there could be a wait for a psychiatrist to arrive to a specific location, now AHS will also be able to offer psychiatric telemedicine services to evaluate 5150 holds.