Emergency Screening Unit for Children and Youth

4309 Third Avenue, San Diego, CA, 92103
Telephone: (619) 876-4502
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Please call the Emergency Screening Unit in advance if possible: (619) 876-4502

What is the Emergency Screening Unit?

The Emergency Screening Unit (ESU) is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide psychiatric crisis stabilization for children and adolescents under age 18 who are experiencing a mental health emergency. Services are contracted through New Alternatives Inc. and are for Medi-Cal beneficiaries. They include:

  • Emergency psychiatric evaluations,
  • Crisis intervention and stabilization,
  • Brief outpatient counseling,
  • Case management,
  • Emergency medication management, and
  • Referrals and linkage to community-based services.

The ESU team evaluates children and youth for the types of services they need, with special attention to mental health, physical health, and substance-related issues. When needed, the ESU team facilitates an admission to a psychiatric hospital.  When hospitalization is not required, appropriate community referrals are made.

Who does the ESU serve?

Patients can be brought by parents or guardians, social workers, law enforcement or ambulance from their family residence or from shelters, Juvenile Hall, hospital emergency rooms, schools, foster homes, group homes, or residential facilities.

The ESU serves Medi-Cal recipients and those who do not have any medical coverage. If you have any questions, contact your primary insurer or call the ESU at (619) 876-4502.

Not sure where to start?

For more information, please call the ESU at (619) 876-4502.

You can also find out which children's services are right for you by calling the Access and Crisis Line at 1-888-724-7240 (7-1-1 TDD/TYY for the hearing impaired).

  • Confidential and free of charge, the San Diego Access & Crisis Line (ACL) offers immediate support and resources from an experienced counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Language interpreter services enable the ACL to assist in over 200 languages.
  • Spanish-speaking counselors are available most hours. Dial 800-855-7100 for Spanish voice/TTY: 800-855-7200.

The material provided on this page is for reference only. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1. If you need support or are actively seeking services, please call the ACL at 1 (888) 724-7240 (TDD/TTY Dial 711) and an experienced counselor will provide you with a referral to meet your needs and help determine eligibility.