AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT)- The Amarillo Police Department Crisis Intervention Team (APDCIT) and Texas Panhandle Centers (TPC) partner together to provide intervention assistance on mental health calls.
According to Officer Richard Cox, from APD’s CIT, they respond to around 33% of mental health calls that come in. As peace officers, they are only qualified to provide a certain amount of assistance, and now with licensed professional counselors (LPC), they are able to provide long-term solutions.
“Having a licensed professional counselor in the car with me that can make referrals can make doctor’s appointments and can cover medical care under their grant for a certain amount of time,” said Cox. “Somebody is stable enough, and they can start making those appointments on their own and handling things outside the crisis.”
Once the officer and LPC are called to the scene, counselors begin asking a series of questions.
“My role is to gather as much information as I can about their mental health,” said Program Administrator for Texas Panhandle Centers Brianna Albracht. “I’m going to be asking a lot of questions about their history if they’ve ever been diagnosed with anything if they’re currently taking any medication, who’s prescribing them any kind of medication. Are they seeing a counselor, and then I’m going to go into my suicide screening.”
From there Albracht is able to determine if individuals are safe to remain in the community or need a higher level of care.
Through the TPC grant, individuals who need assistance from CIT are able to have access to mental health resources.
“We’re able to step in and offer them completely free mental health services,” said Albracht. “Through our grant, we pay for them to see the doctor, we pay for their medications, and we can pay for counseling appointments.”
TPC has grant partners throughout the community that allow them to offer services to the community. Services can include family support, substance abuse, counseling, and daily recovery services.
Cox and Albracht shared that before the program began people in the community were falling through the cracks. Now, data has shown that the program is working.
“Our data shows that we have been able to decrease hospitalizations and incarcerations through our program,” said Albracht. “Everybody that we encounter is offered services through our program and once they are enrolled, we start following up with them.”
“We’ve had a number of clients that have received long-term care and we don’t ever have to talk to them again,” said Cox. It may be in passing to where we say hi but there’s no more crisis.”
Cox adds that the program helps repair cracks in the mental health system because with LPCs and peace officers working together, they are able to follow up with individuals and give them access to referrals needed to see doctors.
“If somebody’s in long-term care we won’t see him again,” said Cox. “We’re trying to work ourselves out of a job if we only come into contact with somebody or take somebody to the hospital one time and we can provide adequate follow-up and never have to see that person again. That’s a win. If we can successfully divert people from jail and from the hospital that’s a win.”
CIT is on the clock Sunday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The team consists of one supervisor and five full-time officers. When CIT is not responding to calls they are following up with mental health reports from other officers or continuing welfare checks with previous individuals.
According to Cox, since 2018 all officers in the state of Texas are required to complete 40 hours of crisis intervention training at the academy level.
Albracht, with TPC, shared that members of their agency must have a degree in a social services field and complete extensive training once they get into the agency.
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