ABILENE, Texas — Abilene is leading the way in Texas with a new program designed to help those suffering from a mental health crisis.
Police Chief Stan Standridge stated that his dispatch team went live with crisis services on Friday, and Abilene is reportedly the first city in Texas to do so. The goal is to get people the help they need before they end up in jail.
“When a person in crisis calls 911, the 911 telecommunicator can ultimately do a consult with avail crisis services and that licensed clinician on the other end can ultimately speak to the caller and there they can decide what is needed," Standridge said.
There are other plans in place to help those during a mental health crisis.
According to Standridge, when a person experiences a mental health crisis, they or a family member end up calling 9-1-1.
"The question we should be asking ourselves is, 'why, what crime has been committed?' and the answer is none," Standridge said.
Chief Stan Standridge said sending a crisis worker is more productive than sending two police officers, which is what they do now.
The Abilene Behavioral Advisory Team, made up of the Abilene Police Department, Abilene Fire Department, Taylor County Sheriff's Office, and The Betty Hardwick Center, is currently working on a few projects, including a crisis response team.
"The crisis response team which is a major part of this project involves the fire department placing a paramedic with a police officer and a mental health clinician which can go out and deal with these people and get them the resources they need," said Fire Chief Cande Flores.
Sheriff Ricky Bishop said 37% of inmates receive mental health services and over $100,000 is spent on medications a year.
"One thing we are trying to do is stop people from coming to jail and getting those criminal charges, criminal records because of mental health needs. We need to try to get them the help, the services that they need before they ever get to jail," said Sheriff Ricky Bishop.
Another part of the project includes a crisis drop-off location where police could take people and mental health professionals can to take over; however, they'll need state and federal funding first.
Chief Standridge hopes the crisis response team will be in place by April or May.