HPD Develops Mental Health Crisis Intervention Program

The Houston Police Department has a new program to respond to crisis calls. Some officers are paired with mental health experts in what's called the Crisis Intervention Response Team. Laurie Johnson has more.
The Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) started patrolling last week. Officers on the team are solely dedicated to mental health calls. They're working with specialists from MHMRA and Mental Health America. Eric Chimney is one of the full-time officers on the team.

"It's only been a week but I'm already seeing results just from that week. I'm seeing people that I've had encounters with before —a mom thanked me last week because her son has finally gotten help."

All HPD officers already receive crisis intervention training. But the CIRT program puts certain officers on mental health duty at all times. They won't respond to burglaries or stolen cars.

Lt. Michael Lee says the presence of mental health clinicians also gives officers access to confidential records they didn't have before.

"They're going to have the time to do the follow-up. Of course, with the clinician in the car they have their computer that has the access to these databases that show the records and the history of treatment and illness of this individual, which officers don't have that type of access. But working together we do now and I think you're going to see a significant improvement."

HPD receives between 1200 and 1500 crisis intervention calls per month. The CIRT is a pilot program and is funded through October.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...