Settlement Reached Between Disability Rights California and San Benito County to Improve the County’s Behavioral Health System

Press Release

Settlement Reached Between Disability Rights California and San Benito County to Improve the County’s Behavioral Health System

A man and woman sitting on a couch. The man is depressed and the woman is comforting him.
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(Hollister, CA) On February 26, 2021, Disability Rights California and San Benito County reached a comprehensive settlement agreement that not only addresses the rights of individuals placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code § 5150 (“5150”) but also expands the resources and services available to assist individuals experiencing a mental health crisis in the home and/or community.

“This Agreement ensures individuals served by San Benito County Behavioral Health can receive needed services in the home and community, helping to prevent unnecessary 5150s and hospitalizations,” said Nicholas Levenhagen, Senior Attorney with Disability Rights California. 

The settlement agreement is the result of months of negotiations that was guided by the findings and recommendations of an independent subject matter expert who conducted a review of the county’s behavioral health system. This review included interviews with San Benito County Behavioral Health (“SBCBH”) leadership and staff, confidential interviews with individuals served by SBCBH and their families, and an evaluation of SBCBH records, policies, and procedures.

Based on the expert’s findings and recommendations, the final settlement includes structural and personnel changes, an expansion of SBCBH services in the home and community, updates to SBCBH policies and procedures, and improves training and collaboration with other agencies.

Some important highlights from the settlement include:

  • The County will continue using a Crisis Hot-Line and implement a Crisis Response Team (CRT) to respond to the needs of individuals experiencing a mental health crisis in the home, workplace, or other community-based location in a timely manner.
  • SBCBH will work towards conducting mental health assessments at a client’s place of residence or in a clinical setting, whenever possible, within six months.
  • The County has contracted for crisis residential services for adults, children, and youth.
  • The County will provide a community-based space where individuals in crisis may go if they could benefit from a calm environment supported by peers, as available (“Warm Room”).
  • The County will work on expanding supportive housing for individuals in need of mental health services.
  • The County will continue to work collaboratively with the San Benito County Jail staff to ensure that individuals receiving mental health services released from San Benito County Jail have documented discharge planning, continuity of medications, and appropriate follow-up appointments with providers.

The agreement also recognizes that Section 5150 provides for detention for up to 72 hours only and that all possible steps will be taken to either safely release a 5150 hold, or transfer an individual to an LPS designated facility when a bed is available or alternative placement prior to the expiration of 72 hours.

DRC attorney Anne Hadreas notes: “This agreement provides a valuable model that other small counties in California may follow to help divert individuals experiencing a mental health crisis from being placed on an involuntary hold at a hospital or facility.”

SBCBH notes: San Benito County Behavioral Health (SBCBH) strives to provide access and quality services to the public. The recommendations made by Disability Rights California are closely aligned with San Benito County’s goal to create innovative projects for our beneficiaries. In our efforts to increase the amount and quality of services that are available, we are committed to continue working on expanding our current services as well as implementing new ones. SBCBH will soon be relocating to a new building that will provide a fresh look for our main clinic with modern space for clients to receive their services. SBCBH will continue our commitment to providing quality services and with increased access to services to the community.

Additional details of the final settlement agreement and the expert’s final report can be viewed here.

Media Contacts

Melody Pomraning
Communications Director
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5938

San Benito County Behavioral Health’s Public Information Officer
(831) 636-4020



Disability Rights California (DRC) is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit:

San Benito County Behavioral Health (SBCBH) provides specialty mental health, substance abuse treatment and prevention services for people who live in San Benito County, including those who are eligible for Medi-Cal. The goal of SBCBH is to improve mental health and substance use care and work with beneficiaries and other health care providers to arrange for quality care that are sensitive to our client’s needs. For more information visit: