Police mental health specialist leaves, sidelining new Psychiatric Emergency Response Team

The PERT team in Palo Alto consisted of Officer Danny Cuevas and therapist Holly Merrill. File photo.
Police Agent Danny Cuevas and therapist Holly Merrill comprised the Palo Alto Police Department's Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, or PERT. Post file photo from August.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The Palo Alto Police Department’s officer-therapist team is no longer operating because the therapist left the job, Chief Andrew Binder said tonight (Nov. 14).

The Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, or PERT, had been working together for just under a year.

Together, Agent Danny Cuevas and therapist Holly Merrill responded to calls involving mental health crises, and they regularly met with homeless people to connect them to the help they need — whether that’s emergency shelter, a doctor, medication or something else.

“This is likely the future of law enforcement,” Cuevas told the Post in August.

Merrill’s last day was on Oct. 11, and then she returned to her native Southern California. Binder mentioned her departure at tonight’s council meeting during a discussion with independent police auditor Mike Gennaco, who has called on the department to document why or why not the PERT was called to a scene.

Merrill, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a background in crisis response, was employed by Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services, so the county will be looking for her replacement.

Capt. James Reifschneider said the city and county are exploring different options for continuing the PERT, and their goal is to have a full-time therapist assigned to the team as soon as possible.
In the meantime, Cuevas has returned to a patrol assignment, Reifschneider said.

The city will rely on the county’s crisis response team, which covers parts of nine different cities, Binder said.

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