Huntington Beach receives $1.5 million in state funds to support mental health services

The Be Well Huntington Beach van.
Be Well OC Huntington Beach launched in September 2021. The city fields about 15,000 calls relating to mental health, substance abuse or similar issues annually, according to city staff.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The city of Huntington Beach announced Friday it will receive $1.5 million from the state to support its mental health services in no short part thanks to the efforts of Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine).

“It’s no secret that we are facing a mental health crisis, and we see the fallout on our streets, in our emergency rooms, and in our communities,” Petrie-Norris said Wednesday.

Petrie-Norris said she was proud to have helped secure the funds, which city officials say will go towards the mobile crisis response program Be Well OC Huntington Beach.

The program was officially deployed in September 2021 and is the county’s first such mobile mental health crisis unit to aid deescalation of family disputes or address residents or visitors struggling with mental health, substance abuse or homelessness.

The city’s police department previously responded to all such calls, which, according to city officials, number about 15,000 annually.

“We must deliver more direct services to people on the streets, and this state funding will pay for professionally trained mobile crisis unit staff to address mental health, substance abuse, and homeless response in real time rather than continuing to deploy police officers to calls for service,” said Petrie-Norris.

Be Well OC Huntington Beach is still in its pilot phase. Neighboring Newport Beach has also deployed its own mobile crisis unit on a similar one-year pilot program.

Huntington Beach’s unit currently operates about 12 hours a day, with its mobile van unit deployed between the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The city has also installed a role for a deputy director of homelessness and behavioral health to support ongoing initiatives.

Mayor Barbara Delgleize couldn’t be immediately reached for additional comment, but in the statement announcing the $1.5 million said, “Over the last several years we have made addressing mental health a priority in Huntington Beach. The fact that we were the first city to rollout the Be Well program is a testament to that.

“I am grateful for the backing and effort put forth by Assemblymember Petrie-Norris on the city’s behalf to acquire this funding and further support mental health within our community.”

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