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Coleman's office has not responded to the Press's request for comment.
The chronic consumer program, according to Lee, would need about $350,000 a year to become a permanent program and hire two new caseworkers and a full-time officer who would be a liaison between the department and MHMRA. To put that money in perspective, the city approved a $135,000 contract to hire a consultant — for not even half a year — to evaluate the city's troubled Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, and another $250,000 was approved for one year to pay a California-based consultant to oversee construction of two new light rail lines.
Still, Lee is concerned this program might not be funded. It's in the "proposal phase" right now, and the mental health unit has prepared a 26-page final report, which it plans to present to Mayor-elect Parker and the city council.
Parker hasn't exactly offered an open checkbook to the police department. She was quoted by KPRC-TV Channel 2 as saying, "I want to change the way we do policing in the city of Houston. We're going to have to do a better job with the amount of money we're putting into the Houston Police Department, and that's going to take a lot of input." Parker's office has not responded to the Press's request for comment.
Lee has the support of at least one council member, Ed Gonzalez, who ran Adrian Garcia's campaign when he was elected sheriff of Harris County.
"When you have chronic consumers that really place a toll on the system, it's important to try to address the root issues that are going on," Gonzalez says. "We can hone in and provide the necessary help, and we can eliminate a lot of those repeat calls. We would eliminate our first responders from a situation where they need to make a split-second decision and have some type of violent encounter with someone in crisis."
Still, Gonzalez recognizes that there isn't much money available for everything, and mental health services could get pushed to the bottom of the pile.
"But you could make the case with the costs associated with constantly responding to a certain person or location, the cost of transport and everything else; it's not like it's not costing us anything anyway," Gonzalez says. "I would definitely be an advocate if it's something the city could afford to do."
During the Thanksgiving holiday, Bailey got his wish to go back to his hometown in East Texas. His mother and father died a couple years ago, and his grandparents have passed away, too. Other extended family members — a few cousins and aunts — are still around but refuse to see him.
He still has a godmother that he's close with, but it was a risky trip for Bailey, who had been stable. He says most of his rage starts after he thinks about things that happened to him growing up. "I have these flashbacks," he says.
The day before Thanksgiving, Maire drove up to East Texas to check on Bailey, make sure he was taking his medication and doing well. He was. His godmother had even gone to get another birth certificate for Bailey, because he never was good at keeping up with it. He wants to visit again soon.
"I did real good, and it was a wonderful trip," Bailey says.
"Policing has always been the traditional response; just take care of it at the time and move on," says Sergeant Patrick Plourde, an officer in the mental health unit. "There's never been a program to identify these people, to find out what the root causes are that drive them to constant crisis mode. That's what we've done."
Lee adds, "Even with the success we've seen, we all know that it has much more potential. Just with our little experiment, we know we can make a difference in keeping people out of jail. And ultimately keeping someone from getting killed."