VALLEJO, Calif. - The Vallejo Police Department is in line to receive $900,000 in federal funding to launch a pilot program aimed at the response to people suffering from mental health issues, the department announced Tuesday.
The Community Mobile Mental Health Response Unit would include an emergency medical technician worker and mental health clinician tasked with providing trauma-informed care during mental health calls for service.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, was able to secure funding for the project as part of Congress' fiscal year 2022 funding package.
"Funding this project is an opportunity to help the community heal, build back trust between residents and law enforcement, and most importantly, ensure our residents' mental health needs are addressed in an appropriate and timely manner," Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams said in a statement released by the department Tuesday.
According to the department, the unit "would also help coordinate responses to those experiencing mental health-related and intellectual and developmental disabilities."
Funding for the program comes amid calls from the local community to see the department reformed following several high-profile incidents with the public, including the fatal officer-involved shootings of Willie McCoy and Sean Monterrosa in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
In January 2019, a Vallejo police officer shot and wounded then-49-year-old Edward Gonzales, who was carrying a knife after trespassing onto a church property. In body camera footage released by the department, Gonzales can be seen acting erratically and suffering from mental distress as he walks around the property attempting to evade the officer.
Just before he is shot, Gonzales comes up to a gate. Sensing he is cornered, Gonzales takes a step toward the officer and is shot multiple times.
The city of Oakland, another Bay Area city with a long history of poor interactions between the police force and community, has launched a year-long pilot program, meant to reduce the number of police responses to 911 calls of those experiencing mental health issues.
The goal of MACRO -- Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland -- is to reduce the number of fatal interactions between police and those suffering from a mental health crisis.
MACRO will operate within the Oakland Fire Department.
It's not immediately known if Vallejo's pilot program will function in the same manner. Vallejo police officials said they will release additional information about the pilot program as it becomes available.