Sugar Land, TX – The Sugar Land Police Department recently launched an innovative, community-based approach to improve outcomes for mental health encounters.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the lack of mental health crisis services across the United States has resulted in law enforcement officers serving as first-responder to most crisis.
Officer Brittany Moreno has been assigned to lead a newly created Crisis Intervention Team intended to create connections between law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families. Through collaborative community partnerships and intensive training, Moreno intends to improve communication, identifies mental health resources for those in crisis and ensures officer and community safety.
Mental health calls are a growing concern across the country, and Sugar Land is no exception. In April alone, SLPD responded to more than 10 mental health calls.
“Our immediate focus will be training and the creation of partnerships necessary to ensure our city remains among the safest in the nation, not just for the residents we serve but also our police officers,” said Moreno. “We’re currently working with mental health facilities, hospitals, Fire-EMS, surrounding agencies with established CIT teams, public safety dispatchers and others to ensure a deliberate, collaborative focus on what’s become a crisis throughout our country.”
Sugar Land’s program is expected to help keep people with mental illness out of jail and in treatment. Diversion programs like CIT reduce arrests of people with mental illness while simultaneously increasing the likelihood that individuals will receive mental health services. NAMI says CIT programs have the potential to provide numerous benefits:
- Police officers are provided more tools to do their job safely and effectively. Research shows that CIT is associated with improved officer attitude and knowledge about mental illness. Some agencies report an 80 percent reduction of officer injuries during mental health crisis calls.
- Some communities have found that CIT has reduced the time officers spend responding to a mental health call. This puts officers back into the community more quickly and keep their focus on crime.
- It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much diversion programs can save communities, but incarceration is costly compared to community-based treatment. The yearly cost of mental health treatment can be $20,000 less expensive than incarceration.
“Mental health stats have really grown since COVID,” said Moreno. “The creation of my position is just a start. We envision the development of a team dedicated to this public health crisis. Working together, I’m confident that we will keep people safe, get help to those in need and truly make a difference. It’s just another way we’re working hard to meet the needs of our community, our officers and their families.”