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Harris County Sheriff's Office
Thursday September 26th, 2013 :: 11:02 a.m. CDT

Community

HCSO BEEFS UP INTERVENTIONS IN CASES INVOLVING MENTAL HEALTH CRISES

In collaboration with the Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County and the Houston Police Department, the Sheriff's Office now deploys six Crisis Intervention Response Teams to potential crime scenes where behavior triggered by mental illness may be a factor.

News media are invited to observe CIRT teams in action today starting at 2 p.m. For more information, send an e-mail to mediarelations@sheriff.hctx.net

The HCSO 's CIRT program started with three teams in October 2011. Three more teams have now been added.

The CIRT program is now active seven days a week and for the first time has bilingual personnel.

Each team is made up of a specially trained HCSO deputy and a mental health clinician employed by MHMRA. The program was modeled after the nationally recognized HPD program, which Sheriff Adrian Garcia had a role in starting as a Houston City Council member and former HPD officer. Now, HCSO and HPD CIRT teams work together across physical and governmental boundaries.

In many cases where suspects in low-level crimes would have been arrested -- only to spend a short time in jail without enough time for mental health treatment -- CIRT teams often "divert" such individuals to mental health facilities where such placements make sense for public safety.

HCSO CIRT teams have handled more than 3,000 calls for service in two years, sometimes filing criminal charges and sometimes transporting individuals to emergency pscyhiatric treatment instead, depending on the circumstances.

"With the permission of Harris County Commissioners Court, two years ago we were able to expand these services beyond the Houston city limits, to the 1.6 million people who live in the unincorporated areas of the county," Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. "I'm proud that we have now doubled the teams to six."

"Helping Harris County residents with acute mental illness to heal would be reason enough to operate this pioneering program," he added. "But CIRT also makes our community safer and saves taxpayers money by stopping the revolving door that allowed such individiuals to cycle through the jail without long-term treatment."

More than 25 percent of the 9,000 inmates in the Harris County Jail have been daignosed as needing psychotropic medication.

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For more information please visit www.iWatchHarrisCounty.com.

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Harris County Sheriff's Office
1200 Baker St
Houston, TX 77002

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Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 713-221-6000

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