SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The Mobile Emergency Response Team for Youth (MERTY) provides a single vehicle designed to bring mental health services directly to Santa Cruz County community members 21 and younger in need.
The unit is equipped with things like chairs, a television and a small refrigerator for beverages, all to provide clients with a more comfortable and relaxing environment where they can speak with counselors and therapists on call without having to travel.
“A safe place, you know, they can talk with someone, share what’s been going on with them, hopefully we can de-escalate what’s been going on,” says MERTY Supervisor Carl Graue.
Local mental health experts say this mobile unit comes in response to the rising need for mental health services for many during the pandemic.
“We’ve seen an uptick in people that are requesting services, especially now with youth returning to school, we’re seeing youth that are experiencing a lot of anxiety with that return,” says Cassandra Eslami, Director of Community Engagement for Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health Services.
The way it works is people experiencing psychiatric distress can call an 800 number, then a counselor or therapist will meet a person at their location for discussion but can also help direct individuals to doctors, hospitals or any other needed resources.
Mental health experts say this mobile unit is a valuable tool in parts of the county where many may have limited or a lack of financial resources.
“We’ll respond to anyone in psychiatric distress, so there’s no need to worry about payment, we actually will come to where you are and we will provide crisis intervention services," says Eslami.
The MERTY unit has been in action since December 1st and mental health providers say whether its going out to schools, residences or other locations, their goal is to reach out to as many people as possible.
“There’s always a way, If you are in trouble and you need somebody to talk to, that’s what we’re here for is to try and help people get to a better place so they don’t feel desperate to do something to themselves or to others,” says Graue.
Service can be requested by calling 800-952-2335