Supervisor Chuck Washington walking out of a mobile outreach clinic van.
Supervisor Chuck Washington was all smiles after taking a look inside one of the mobile outreach vans. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez)

Riverside University Health System (RUHS) Tuesday unveiled its new fleet of mobile crisis response vehicles outside of the county administration building in downtown Riverside.

“I applaud our county staff and everybody who has been involved in putting this together,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “Yes, we would love to have had this a couple of years ago obviously, but it’s here now so let’s put it to use and help some people.”

The fleet includes five mobile clinics that are staged throughout the county, a mobile unit that will focus on providing street-medicine services to the county’s unhoused population and a mobile unit that will be used at events to raise awareness of the services provided by RUHS.

“I just really appreciate the board and our community’s supportiveness,” Rhyan Miller, deputy director of RUHS-Behavioral Health, said. “It’s really the community voices driving the changes we’re making, because we all have that same goal to help our community, help our youth, help our people in distress.”

Miller said the mobile units will allow teams to respond to any crisis, anywhere in the county, within 30 minutes — even Blythe on the easternmost edge of the county. And while Miller said most people think of people in crisis as being at risk of harming themselves or others, he said the word crisis encompasses so much more than that and can include things like severe anxiety or exposure to the elements.

“We ask the human to define what their crisis is,” he said. “If a human says it’s a crisis, we’re gonna go.”

Once the crisis teams respond, caregivers are able to start working with patients to figure out how to best handle the crisis at hand. 

(From left) RUHS-Behavioral Health Director of Innovation and Integration Deborah Johnson, RUHS-Behavioral Health Director Dr. Matthew Chang, Supervisor Chuck Washington and Riverside County CEO Jeff Van Wagenen talk outside of the mobile outreach van. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez)

Kristin Miller, behavioral health services administrator, said the plan is to staff the mobile clinics with crisis counselors who can respond to crisis calls and be available at outreach events.

“Crisis counselors are really there to be with someone at kind of often their worst moments,” she said. “We want to create a safe space for somebody to feel comfortable sharing about what’s going on, but the first top priority is we want to make sure that people are safe.”

Kristin Miller said crisis counselors in Riverside County are able to really spend time with people in crisis to ensure that they are safe in the moment and have a safety plan in place going forward.

“We’ll spend however long it takes, and that’s really kind of the beauty of being a crisis counselor with Riverside County is there’s no quota, there’s no need to worry, we can really spend however long we need to,” she said. “Sometimes our crisis calls are like an hour, sometimes they’re all day long. It just really depends on whatever that person needs from us.”

The mobile clinics are just one part of what Dr. Matthew Chang, director of RUHS-Behavioral Health, calls the continuum of care.

“We’ve really been focused on building out the continuum of care to get everyone in Riverside County access to right care, right time, right place, so they’re able to slot into the appropriate level of care that they need at that time and do their best to get on their best path to recovery” he said.

That continuum includes the mobile crisis teams, mobile clinics, mobile crisis vans, mental health urgent care clinics, sobering centers and hospitals to better connect people with the care that they need when they need it and where they need it.

“Our job is to talk them into something better for themselves, which is to go to treatment,” Rhyan Miller said.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors and representatives from RUHS-Behavioral Health pose in front of a mobile crisis response van. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez)

He said RUHS-Behavioral Health was also moving forward with the Wellness Village in Mead Valley, which will be the first facility in the county to provide mental health urgent care for youth, allowing them and their families to stay closer to home while receiving treatment. The facility is expected to break ground next summer with a completion date no later than December 2026.

RUHS was able to purchase the seven vehicles through $1.8 million in grants from the California Department of Health Care Services. The five smaller vehicles have already been deployed across the county, and the two larger vehicles have been booked for community outreach events.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing a crisis, assistance from the Mobile Crisis Response Team is available 24/7 by calling the Inland SoCal Crisis Help Line at 951-686-4357 or the CARES Line at 800-499-3008.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.