Help for a Mental Health Crisis is a Phone Call Away


If you ever needed help for a mental health crisis, do you know where to get it?

If you are experiencing an emergency that threatens someone’s safety, you should immediately call 9-1-1. When these type of calls come in, a member of the County’s Psychiatric Emergency Response Team accompanies the law enforcement agency responding.

The County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) operates the Access and Crisis Line—(800) 479-3339—where adults and children can speak with a counselor any time, any day, in 140 languages.

Counselors can help you with your specific situation and refer you to mental health services and other resources available in your community.

“We want people to know they are not alone,” said Alfredo Aguirre, Director of HHSA Mental Health Services. “The Access and Crisis Line is a great resource where people can speak with a trained counselor in 60 seconds or less.”

HHSA also offers walk-in services for adults in 15 outpatient mental health centers located throughout the County. The walk-in clinics provide access to mental health evaluations and psychiatric assessments for individuals with mental health needs. About 14,000 adults receive mental health assessments at HHSA walk-in clinics each year.  A complete list of outpatient mental health centers and hours of operation can be found here.

Mental health services are also available for children and adolescents who are experiencing a mental health emergency or crisis. More than 1,000 youth receive an emergency psychiatric assessment at the Emergency Screening Unit annually. The Unit is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and serves the entire county. The list of children’s out patient clinics can be found here.

One in four adults experiences a mental health disorder during any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. One in five children experiences a mental health challenge in their lifetime. In all, about 61,000 children and adults benefit from County-funded mental health services each year.

Two major education and awareness campaigns are currently underway in the region. It’s Up to Us aims to empower San Diegans to talk openly about mental illness, recognize symptoms, use local resources and seek help.

Housing Matters is a countywide campaign to increase awareness and educate the public about the stigma and discrimination homeless people with mental illness face when trying to secure a safe and permanent place to live.

The goal of both campaigns is to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and encourage people to get help and improve their mental health, a goal of the County’s Live Well, San Diego! initiative.

“By eliminating stigma, people will feel more comfortable getting the help they need,” said Aguirre. “Mental health is just as important as physical wellbeing.”

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact