Houston is the first police department in the nation to devote an entire division to mental health, reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The background leading up to the program's success reads like Malcolm Gladwell's essay "Million Dollar Murray."
The Houston Police Department has five programs aimed at helping people in psychiatric crisis avoid arrest — including a homeless outreach team, a team dedicated to identifying chronic consumers and a team of 10 officers who are paired with mental health counselors to go out on calls for help. Since 2008, the department has cut the number of its mental illness emergency contacts in half.
When launching that program in 2009, Houston police reviewed all reports involving people with mental illness. They found that more than 200 people in mental health crises had repeated interactions with police officers since 2006, the year the department began compiling the data.
They then narrowed that list down to those who had been taken in on emergency detentions four or more times — a total of 57 "chronic consumers."
Two caseworkers were assigned to the 57. Some could not be found; others were in jail, prison or hospitals. They located 30 people and got them help.
In the six months before the pilot program began, those 30 people had been named in 194 offense reports and 165 emergency psychiatric detention orders.
"This is a total of 359 time-consuming events which averages close to one hour of work per officer per event," a department report on the program noted.
After intense intervention by the two case managers, the same 30 individuals were reported to have been involuntarily committed by officers 39 times in the following six months — a decrease of 76.4%. They were involved in 65 police offense reports — a 66.5% decrease.
Police estimate they saved 768 patrol manpower hours and 194 investigative hours on those 30 people alone. That doesn't count the cost in time, money and resources of emergency room care, hospitalizations, lawyers and court costs.
One man had been hospitalized 17 times in a six-month span before the program. He had 23 contacts with police and was incarcerated five times. The total cost to police alone: $145,938.
In the first six months he was in the program, he was hospitalized twice, had two police contacts and was not incarcerated. The total police cost: $1,764.
To read more: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/houstons-solution-to-mental-health-system-problems-offers-a-case-study-for-milwaukee-b9928490z1-210715811.html
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