Officer Staci Esqueda speaking to a resident. Photo courtesy of Behavioral Health Department.
Officer Staci Esqueda speaking to a resident. Photo courtesy of Behavioral Health Department.

This column was contributed by the San Benito County Behavioral Health Department. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.


San Benito County’s Support, Awareness, Follow-up & Engagement (S.A.F.E.) team has been proving successful since its launch in fall of 2021. The S.A.F.E. team has already attended to over 52 calls and managed to safety plan 48 people successfully.

Calls to the team vary from domestic disputes to citizen concerns in the county. A notable call the S.A.F.E. team was dispatched to was when a person was wielding a weapon at a shopping area parking lot in September 2021.

“It was so intense but it’s really nice to see that it didn’t escalate to the level we thought. This situation proves that mindful intervention like the S.A.F.E. team really works,” said Juan Gutierrez-Cervantes, Staff Analyst for San Benito County Behavioral Health.

The S.A.F.E. team has a dedicated officer from the Hollister Police Department, Stacey Esqueda, and a mental health employee from the San Benito County Behavioral Health, Nancy Abellera. S.A.F.E. is designed to help de-escalate situations in the community that may otherwise result in a person being hospitalized with a 5150. The local emergency room was being impacted with people who were brought in with mental health issues by law enforcement. Upon further evaluation by our Behavioral Health staff, it was clear that many cases could have been avoided by de-escalating and creating a safety plan. The S.A.F.E. team does exactly that and goes a step further and follows up with the person in the coming days after the situation to ensure linkage to resources and services has happened and offer additional assistance if needed.

The S.A.F.E. team also does community walks and educates the public and the homeless community of the services being provided. The team offers assistance that even includes buying milk for someone as an alternative to alcohol. “Why would you even do things like provide bus tokens and buy milk?!” said a person who was struggling with addiction admitting that he didn’t think anyone cared enough to help. Officer Esqueda and Nancy Abellera explained that many times when people have their basic needs met, it gives them the little push needed to then be open to receiving services and treatment.

San Benito County Behavioral Health was able to fully fund officer Esqueda’s position at the Hollister Police Department through Mental Health Services Act funds for Prevention and Early Intervention. For more information on the S.A.F.E. team or other Behavioral Health services, call (888) 636-4020 or visit our website at