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HPD's Pilot Program To Deal With Mentally Ill Becomes Permanent

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In December, we published a story that involved the Houston Police Department's Crisis Intervention Team, and one of its new programs that only a couple other departments in the country were trying.

That program, the Crisis Intervention Response Team, pairs street officers with counselors from MHMRA for patrol. Previously, it's just been a pilot program, but the department has now announced that the program is now a permanent unit.

"They were satisfied and happy with the results, so HPD has decided to make it a running program," department spokesman John Cannon tells Hair Balls.

In December, we talked with one of the teams in the pilot program, Officer Eric Chimney and Mike Erickson, who worked at the county's Neuropsychiatric Center. The team told us that in the six months they'd been together, responding to about four calls a day, they'd only made eight arrests.

In our feature, Harris County sheriff's deputies had responded to a suicide attempt call, and they ended up taking the teenage girl to jail where things went horribly wrong. It's the type of situation the new HPD unit possibly could've defused, and would certainly have the training to do so.

Lieutenant Mike Lee, who heads the crisis intervention unit, tells Hair Balls that he's spoken with new sheriff Adrian Garcia several times about getting deputies involved with the program, and Lee says that Garcia is excited, more responsive than the old administration ever was.

"There's some really good changes going on over there," Lee says.

-- Paul Knight

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