Assemblymember Bonta Statement on the Death of Steven Taylor
My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to Steven’s family, loved ones, and friends. Steven’s life was cut short. There are life’s milestones and experiences that he will never experience. As a fellow father of three, I can only imagine the loss and grief. As we come together in our shared humanity, we are saddened and hurt.
The death of Steven Taylor is tragic and something no one wanted. And I support the implementation of policies that help prevent similar incidents in the future.
We understand that Steven was experiencing a mental health crisis inside Walmart. To get to that point, it seems that systems failed him. That doors were closed to him. That he was not provided the help, support, and services he needed and deserved.
We can and must do better.
Mental illness is widespread in our community. Close to 1 in 6 Californians experiences some form of mental illness and 1 out of every 24 Californians suffers from a serious mental disorder that makes it difficult to function in daily life. Unfortunately, we do not have an adequate mental health care infrastructure in place to serve those in our community who need it. This is further compounded by the stigmatization of mental illness, which makes it difficult for folks to seek help.
When individuals needing treatment and support are in crisis, we need to provide them a mental health door to walk through— as opposed to a door into the criminal justice system.
An emerging best practice in law enforcement is increased use of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) and law enforcement partnerships with county mental health professionals. These programs currently exist in San Mateo and Alameda County (Oakland), for example. This approach provides for peace officers with crisis intervention training and mental health professionals to team up and be first on the scene when a community member is suffering a mental break. Crisis intervention training teaches de-escalation techniques, mostly verbal approaches. And the mental health professionals embedded in the team can access tools and resources, including current medications, and even has the ability to get the individual’s doctor on the line to speak directly with their patient.
These approaches are deserving of expansion and investment.
I am hopeful that we can turn our collective pain into action. Action that provides support for our fellow community members who are wrestling with mental illness. So the next time one of our neighbors is having a mental break, my hope is for de-escalation and, ultimately, to see that neighbor voluntarily walking into an ambulance to get the care they need and deserve, and, eventually, to stabilize and thrive.