Children, Youth & Families System of Care

Emergency and Crisis Services for Children and Youth

Emergency Screening Unit

According to Title 9 of the California Code of Regulations, an "Emergency Psychiatric Condition" is defined as a condition in which a person, due to a mental disorder, is a current danger to self or others or is immediately unable to provide for or utilize food, shelter or clothing. This situation indicates an immediate need for psychiatric inpatient hospitalization or psychiatric health facility assessment.

Crisis children's services are available at the Access and Crisis Line at 1-888-724-7240. (TDD/TYY for the hearing impaired). Spanish speaking counselors are available most hours, and interpretation is accessible in over 140 languages through language interpreting services 24/7. (Dial 7-1-1 or English Voice/TTY: 800-855-7100 Spanish Voice/TTY: 800-855-7200).

Emergency mental health services are available at the Emergency Screening Unit (ESU) for children and adolescents under age 18 who are experiencing a mental health emergency or crisis.

Emergency Screening Unit (ESU): 619-876-4502
4309 Third Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
Telephone: (619) 876-4502

Please call in advance if possible.

The Emergency Screening Unit (ESU) provides emergency psychiatric evaluations, crisis intervention, crisis stabilization, brief outpatient counseling, case management and emergency medication management to children and adolescents under age 18.

Over 1,000 youth receive an emergency psychiatric assessment at the Emergency Screening Unit annually. The unit is open 24 hours/7 days a week, and serves the entire County. Patients are brought by parents/guardians, social workers, law enforcement or ambulance from their family residences or from shelters, Juvenile Hall, hospital emergency rooms, schools, foster homes, group homes, or residential facilities.

ESU serves the Medi-Cal population and those who do not have any medical coverage. Although those with private insurance can be seen at ESU, it is advised that the private insurance clients receive services at facilities and agencies authorized by the insurance company.

Clients are assessed as to the types of services they need, with integrated attention to mental health, physical health and substance-related issues. If hospitalization is not required, appropriate community referrals are made.

For more information, please call 619-876-4502.

Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCRT) 

The County of San Diego offers Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCRT) as a service option for individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis. MCRTs are comprised of licensed mental health clinicians, case managers, and peer support specialists who can respond to behavioral health crisis calls that do not involve known threats of violence or medical emergencies . For further information on the MCRT program and how to access services, visit the MCRT web page.


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.

For administrative information or to provide feedback about this page, send us an email.