APD to partner with mental health agency to quickly respond to crises

Julia Brouillette

Starting May 1, the Austin Police Department will launch a program that will allow Austin Travis County Integral Care, an agency of medical professionals who provide on-site treatment and resources for people facing a psychiatric crisis, to serve as first responders alongside APD officers to assist in potential mental health crises. 

In certain areas of the city, Integral Care personnel will respond to calls as they happen when a patrol officer is still on the scene.

“The goal behind that is to try to offer officers an opportunity to divert somebody with a mental health crisis from arrest — to intervene when someone’s having a crisis and offer the officer different options that we didn’t always have available to us,” APD Sgt. Michael King said.

APD’s crisis intervention team receives more than 100 cases per month, many of which may involve people with mental illness. By partnering with Integral Care, the department can refer more serious cases to clinicians who make follow-up visits and referrals for mental health services.

“The police department is good at certain things, and our unit does follow-up on the original calls the patrol officers handle on a daily basis,” King said. “But our background is a not as medical professionals, and we’re not as well-trained as the employees of Integral Care. They’re better suited to provide quality care to these individuals, guide them to the right resources and get them proper long-term treatment.”

Although APD’s relationship with Integral Care dates back several years, the two organizations have increased their collaboration this year. In the first four months of 2014, APD has referred 680 cases to Integral Care.

“It was kind of on an as-needed basis,” King said. “This has been a great benefit to us because, in the past, with so many cases and only seven officers, a lot of times an officer would read a case for follow-up, look at it and be done with it. But now, we can say, ‘I think this person might benefit if we send this case over to
Integral Care.’”

According to King, UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center is part of a large network of agencies that work together on mental health initiatives.

Jane Bost, the center’s associate director, said the center rarely works directly with APD.

“There are very unusual situations, like when we had the suicide shooting a couple of years ago, where they [clinicians] come to campus and work with victims’ assistance to provide intervention and support,” Bost said.

Bost said the center unveiled its newest mental health program April 16.

“We are piloting the Mobile MindBody Lab, and, so far, we’re getting some traction on that,” Bost said.

The lab, which will be set up in various locations around campus, is aimed at promoting stress management and psychiatric health.

“The student reaction we’ve had to the lab really is exciting, and that’s not the end,” Bost said. “We’ll be planning for new initiatives over the summer.”