The Crisis Intervention Team in Harris County works to safely and effectively help people who have mental illness and substance abuse disorders if they experience crises in their community. What the Harris County Crisis Intervention Team attempts to do to supplement these actions is to promote partnerships across Harris County and in individual communities in our area. These partnerships involve law enforcement, health providers, behavioral health providers, and citizens who suffer from these mental health and substance abuse disorders. Additionally, the family members of people with substance abuse and mental health issues are also involved in the process as much as possible to allow them to voice their opinions and assist their relatives when able.
In recent years, we have heard so much about law enforcement agencies playing the most critical role in maintaining peace and safety on our streets. In Harris County, the Harris County Crisis Intervention Team seeks to involve law enforcement as much as possible in creating program processes as well as the operations of staff and the Crisis Intervention Team itself. Additionally, there is a range of other services made available to members of our community through things like a crisis phone line in a mobile crisis team who seek to help avoid the need for individuals to become involved in the criminal justice system because of their substance abuse disorder or mental illness. The Crisis Intervention Team in Harris County is one part of a well-developed system for maintaining the health of our community.
Unfortunately, there is a continued need for crisis intervention in our world today. Additionally, the programs made available through the crisis intervention unit within Harris County have the overwhelming task of providing services to individuals who may not want to take advantage of the assistance made available to them. When these programs are not taken advantage of what we run into is a situation where individuals will interact more and more with law enforcement to help in these types of situations. An increased amount of contact with law enforcement certainly increases the likelihood of arrest.
What are the program activities of the Harris County Crisis Intervention Team?
The Crisis Intervention Team within Harris County wants to be able to understand how their programs are interacting with the community. One of the main challenges suffered by the Crisis Intervention Team regarding its intended purpose to serve the community is simply making sure that its programs are being implemented as planned. Whether it be a call center where calls can come in to notify the Crisis Intervention Team of a potential issue, outreach programs both by public and private entities as well or law enforcement interaction, the Crisis Intervention Team works alongside many different partners in these sort of crisis scenarios. All of this is done to work as efficiently as possible towards avoiding situations becoming out of control.
The Harris County Crisis Intervention Team programs bring together all these different groups to improve our community’s response to mental health crises. Crisis Intervention Team members and officers are not law enforcement but are designed to help bring together mental health professionals, politicians, and other people to help problem solve and take responsibility regarding the improving state of mental health responses in our area. One of the key goals of this process is to prevent jails from being overcrowded with mental health cases and to allow pleased to be able to attend to matters more in line with public safety. In some situations, jails have become the default option for handling matters related to mental health issues suffered by members of our community. It is the goal of the Crisis Intervention Team to allow law enforcement to support other efforts used to treat members of the community who are suffering from substance abuse or mental health crises. Law enforcement should respond only when there is a level of danger or if a crime has been committed.
The bottom line is that the Crisis Intervention Team attempts to put community members in a situation where they can readily obtain mental health or substance abuse treatment without first having to go through the criminal justice system. Although sometimes members of the community must be arrested or otherwise interact with law enforcement it is not always the case. It is especially inefficient for a person to meet law enforcement if their true need is regarding mental health treatment.
The Crisis Intervention Team includes people in our community who have mental illnesses as well as their family members. The attitude is that people who suffer from mental health issues have the most at stake in a crisis. Members of their family also have a tremendous amount at stake in these cases given their relationship to the person who has the mental health or substance abuse issue. The Crisis Intervention Team of Harris County seeks to be able to tap into these resources to learn how to better serve this community. These folks find that by working more and more with mental illness sufferers and their families the team can build a response that helps those in need feel like they are being listened to and accommodated without fearing arrest or further involvement from law enforcement.
What are some of the main goals of the Crisis Intervention Team?
As with any organization, the Crisis Intervention Team has several goals that they as an organization seek to accomplish both on an immediate level and a more long-term level. With so much focus on law enforcement and public safety, the Crisis Intervention Team seeks to put law enforcement in a position where they can appropriately respond to crises without having to resort to violence. Law enforcement has a very difficult job and the circumstances that law enforcement officers face are often bleak and dangerous. With that said, if law enforcement is better equipped to handle crises involving mental health and substance abuse then it is less likely that violence will even be a factor to consider.
There are mental health services available in our community for those who are suffering from a mental health crisis or a substance abuse disorder. The difficult part about that is it can be hard for there was suffering to even be aware of the programs and services available to them. Fortunately, part of the mission of the Crisis Intervention Team is to make families aware of these opportunities so that they are better able to treat acute crises and ongoing issues, alike. The more awareness that is available to these programs the more likely members of our community would be able to obtain the care that they so desperately need.
When law enforcement does need to be utilized in a situation involving a person with a mental health issue then those law enforcement officers should be utilized in the most efficient manner possible. Law enforcement officers under this arrangement will be used more like a surgeon’s scalpel than a blunt instrument. The surgeon’s scalpel is very precise whereas the blunt instrument can do just as much harm as it can good. A law enforcement officer is likely not going to be extensively trained regarding how to handle public emergencies involving a person with a mental health crisis. Therefore, mental health professionals can better utilize their experience and help people in need.
The success of the Crisis Intervention Team is measured in how?
The most critical relationships in the Crisis Intervention Team are those between law enforcement, mental health professionals, and people from the community who act as advocates on behalf of those with mental health and substance abuse issues. When these groups work well together the Crisis Intervention Team can proceed with their business more fluidly. What communities with effective Crisis Intervention Teams see is less involvement of law enforcement and better outcomes for those who have mental health problems as well as substance abuse issues.
The Crisis Intervention Team of Harris County also works with local politicians and advocacy groups to help get the word out about the services that they provide. These groups are in the community daily making themselves known. It is one thing to offer a terrific service but it is another to have known in the community know who you are so that no one can draw upon your experience and skills. The Crisis Intervention Team goes through a lot of trouble and spends time and resources on making people in the community aware of their role and the benefits that they can play.
There is also an extensive training program that the Crisis Intervention Team provides for emergency call takers as well as law enforcement officers which helps all parties be able to respond effectively to people who are in a crisis. This may involve learning active listening skills, assisting with developing empathy in emotional circumstances as well and getting the correct phone numbers and contact information in front of them for local mental health resources. It is a balancing act to help ensure the safety of our community but also to provide people with the mental health services that they need.
Law enforcement working with mental health counselors
One of the things that both law enforcement officers as well as mental health professionals comment on is that they are sometimes unaware of why their counterparts act in the ways that they do regarding a mental health crisis. For example, those who work in mental health will often tell others that they have little to no practical experience with law enforcement and that they therefore do not understand sometimes why they have acted as they have in certain areas. We know that law enforcement and mental health professionals play an important role in these Crisis Intervention Teams. Therefore, being able to help these two groups learn more about one another and understand better the goals of the other can help all parties when it comes to handling crises here in Harris County.
People in the community who live with and are related to individuals who have mental health issues tend to be very effective advocates for their family members and other people like them in Harris County. What you see happen quite frequently is that these individuals will act as advocates for their family members by learning more about mental health crisis response and getting in contact with local leaders to better fund and train all persons related to mental health in Harris County. One of the ways that Crisis Intervention Teams succeed is that they encourage their members to look toward people who have different experiences than they do. This way they can learn more about different perspectives that can help them better focus on positive outcomes for persons with mental health issues.
Finding alternatives to jail for persons with mental health issues
The Crisis Intervention Team seeks, whenever possible, to assist law enforcement in being able to help with identifying mental health crises so that they can turn to the resources available to them as far as help people in those scenarios. Here is county has done an admirable job at attempting to make available these resources all day, every day. The alternative to these resources is to oftentimes resort 2 placing people in jail where there is very little in the way of mental health resources that can help people in a tough situation.
On the contrary, behavioral health professionals earn a better position to be able to help the Crisis Intervention Teams in Harris County as far as assisting with talking a person down from a potentially dangerous situation. The difficulty in the past has been that mental health has not always been at the forefront of different arms of law enforcement and public safety in our area. For example, consider a situation where a 911 operator takes a call from a person who is reporting an incident involving a person who is having a mental health episode or crisis.
If the only thing that that 911 operator can do these to alert a law enforcement officer to go out to the home or to immediately treat the situation as the person would a habitual lawbreaker, then the person having the mental health crisis will likely be unable to receive the treatment that he or she needs. The reason for this is that if found to be breaking the law the law enforcement officer will have no choice but to arrest him or her and cut her off from necessary mental health treatment.
The role that family members play in a mental health crisis
if you are a family member of an individual who is having a mental health crisis in the home then you may be also having a mental health crisis yourself. This is not uncommon, and it is unfortunately the case that you may not know what to do or how to handle the situation at least at first. Over time you may develop various coping mechanisms and other skills that are intended to help treat these situations as you see them arise. What the Harris County Crisis Intervention Team attempts to do is not assume that he was a family member will have the same level of training and expertise that he or she does. However, what you do have is information about your loved one that nobody else does. The Crisis Intervention Team in terms to keeps you and other family members in the loop when it comes to the next steps in the process regarding the care and safety of your loved one.
It can be helpful to share with the Crisis Intervention Team the type of services or help that your loved one has been able to take advantage of to this point. Remember that the Crisis Intervention Team is often interested in the situation with little to no information about your loved one. You may be the best source of information that he or she has available to them. At the core of its mission, the Harris County Crisis Intervention Team seeks to make sure that communication is maintained between your loved one, you, law enforcement, and mental health professionals.
If you are dealing with a situation where you have a loved one who is suffering from a mental health crisis just know that you do not have to go it alone. There are resources available to you in our community that can assist you in these difficult times. Additionally, there are legal resources such as guardianships, powers of attorney, and more when it comes to helping your loved one manage their life when he or she is having a crisis. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today on our blog and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we continue to share relevant and interesting information about the worlds of estate planning, guardianship, and probate in Texas.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas estate planning as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a probate or guardianship case.