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New Alzheimer’s Response Team Helps San Diego Seniors In Crisis

San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob stands with health officials and com...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob stands with health officials and community leaders to announce a new Alzheimer's Response Team to help seniors in crisis, La Mesa, California, Dec. 5, 2018.

Emergency officials and law enforcement officers are increasingly responding to calls about people with dementia in crisis. The degenerative brain disease can cause disruptive or sometimes violent behaviors.

Now, a new San Diego County-led Alzheimer’s Response Team, serving East County, is stepping in to steer people to appropriate services, instead of emergency rooms or jails.

The team is so effective it could expand to other regions, said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who gathered with health officials and community members on Wednesday to announced the progress.

"That’s what we’re here to announce today," Jacob said. "It’s working."

Jacob said the team had responded to dozens of calls since its formation in June.

"The whole goal here is to keep those who are in crisis in the home and improve their lives, educate the family and the loved ones that have the responsibility of taking care of these individuals,” Jacob said.

Leading the initiative are county Aging & Independence Services, the Sheriff’s Department and other public agencies, along with the Grossmont Healthcare District, Sharp HealthCare and Alzheimer’s San Diego.

The team consists of deputies, firefighters and other first responders in Santee and Lakeside who are connected with county social workers, clinicians and other Alzheimer’s experts.

"We’re able to provide support services, advocacy and put resources in place to assure the family member who’s going through this dementia crisis, we’re able to then give them hope," said Lashaunda Gaines, one of six social workers on the team.

When calls come in from emergency officials, she or one of her colleagues responds within an hour, she said, to conduct crisis stabilization and assessment.

The county has budgeted $1 million to fund the program. It’s part of the Alzheimer’s Project — the county-led initiative to find a cure and help families struggling with the disease.

Nearly 84,000 people in San Diego County have Alzheimer's or related dementia, and that number is expected to soar 36 percent by the year 2030, according to a recent county study.

A new San Diego County-led Alzheimer’s Response Team is stepping in to steer people to appropriate services, instead of emergency rooms or jails.

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