Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pilot Crisis Intervention Project in Houston

According to the Houston Chronicle, ("Mental health experts, HPD team up to help patients," May 13, 2008), the Houston Police Department has developed a new pilot program aimed at defusing crisis situations involving people with mental illness.

Here's the article:

"Mental health professionals are riding alongside Houston police in a six-month pilot program designed to help defuse crisis situations involving unstable people, officials said.

The program, which began this month, pairs an HPD officer with a licensed mental health case worker to form a Crisis Intervention Response Team, officials said.

'The CIRT program is the only one of its kind in the state of Texas,' HPD Chief Harold Hurtt said Wednesday.

HPD officials said two officers are assigned full-time to the program while a second pair are working on a part-time basis. The officers are certified in crisis intervention.

Unlike other CIT-trained officers, those in the CIRT program will respond solely to scenes involving possible mental health issues, officials said.

'You actually have the opportunity to do follow-ups because I'm not hampered by other calls for service,' said Eric Chimney, one of the HPD officers assigned to the pilot program.

The department has about 1,000 CIT-trained officers — with about 800 assigned to patrol units. They will remain the first line of response for the 1,200 to 1,500 mental health crisis calls received each month, officials said.

With a mental health worker at their side, the officer will have immediate access to critical information, such as medical background.

'Officers don't have that type of access, but working together, we do now,' said HPD Lt. Michael Lee, supervisor of the department's crisis intervention teams.

The clinicians, who work for the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority, will help after HPD officers secure the scene, officials said."

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