L.A. County using urgent care centers, rather than jails or ERs, to treat mentally ill in crisis

January 18, 2016

Los Angeles County mental health officials and police are increasingly looking to urgent care centers as an alternative to jail beds or overcrowded psychiatric ERs for people in the throes of a mental health crisis. There are five such centers around the county and it plans to open four more over the next couple of years. They provide short-term care for walk-in patients and for people transferred from ERs or brought in by police after being deemed a danger to themselves or others. The centers handled more than 27,000 visits in fiscal year 2014-15. It costs the county about $28 million a year to operate five centers, with much of that coming from state mental health funding and Medi-Cal. The cost per patient ranges from $200 to $900, depending on the level of care required.