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July 13, 2016

Renee Cookson
Community Development Director
NAMI San Diego

San Diego, Meet ‘oscER’– Psychiatric Help in the Palm of Your Hand

There’s no doubt navigating a mental health crisis can be confusing for peers and loved ones alike.  Now, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI San Diego) has an app for that.

NAMI San Diego is a non-profit organization offering support, education and advocacy for everyone affected by mental illness, as well as their loved ones and supporters. The Tech CAFÉ is a department of NAMI San Diego that developed a mobile app called Organized Support Companion in an Emergency Situation (oscER).

OsCER is designed to help families and friends of those experiencing mental health crises navigate the often confusing array of emergency services, options and resources available in San Diego. The NAMI San Diego Tech CAFÉ used surveys from members of the community and their family members and supporters to determine the resources that would be most beneficial in navigating San Diego’s mental health landscape. This app is for family and friends who play an active role in the life of a person who experiences mental illness. It is also valuable to caregivers, social workers, therapists, medical personnel, first responders, and medical staff in emergency departments.

The oscER San Diego app is free to install on your Android or iOS mobile device as of June 30, 2016. The app was developed using funding from NAMI San Diego and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency through the Mental Health Services Act, and does not have any ads.

OscER offers help before, during and after a crisis, and is available in both English and Spanish. It is easy to navigate and includes information for San Diego County such as:

  • Maps and phone numbers for walk-in centers, emergency rooms and psychiatric hospitals
  • Food, shelter and legal aid resources
  • Crisis line information
  • Education for yourself and family members about mental illness
  • Relaxing and soothing soundscapes

NAMI San Diego’s Community Development Director, Renee Cookson, oversaw the development process of oscER from concept to launch. “Our team of contributors consisted of everyone involved in mental health situations—including individuals with mental illness, family, friends, medical professionals and first responders. It was made by people who have an intimate knowledge of the questions that arise before, during and after a crisis, and the answers to those questions,” she said.

Technology is shaping the future of how we access information, but often the topic of mental health is neglected, due to stigma or lack of information. With oscER, NAMI San Diego is closing that gap, championing meaningful access to health and wellness through the latest technologies.

Cookson added, “oscER puts mental health resource information at the user’s fingertips. The fact is, 12.5% of the people that go to the emergency department go due to a substance abuse or mental health issue. oscER can be used to help someone determine whether they or their loved one needs to access emergency services, or whether other options are available.”

There are approximately 750,000 people who experience mental illness in San Diego County – that’s enough to fill Qualcomm Stadium 10 times over. There are scores more who love or care for a person with mental illness in the County too. Now, everyone with access to a smart phone, tablet or computer can receive help from oscER.

For more information, check out the oscER app in your mobile device’s app store or go to