SAPD aims to expand mental health department after scrutiny over response this summer

san antonio – Saturday marks three months since a San Antonio police officer shot and killed 46-year-old Melissa Perez.

Three police officers were charged with Perez’s murder after Chief William McManus said Perez was in the midst of a mental health crisis and that he did not follow department training.

The police department confirmed that the mental health unit was not notified. Now SAPD is trying to find new solutions possible through the latest round of funding from City Council’s new budget.

“We need more people,” SAPD Deputy Chief Karen Foulkes said. “If we can build this team over a 24-hour period, we will have more officers covering the city.”

More personnel are being budgeted for SAPD with the City Council’s passage of a $3.7 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2024 last week. This budget will allow the San Antonio Community Outreach and Resiliency Initiative (SA CORE) to operate his 24/7 operation.

They are a team of trained police officers, SAFD paramedics, and licensed mental health clinicians who respond to mental health crises. Currently, the team works two shifts, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

Foulkes said the department is considering expanding its mental health department, but in the meantime, it is working to train all staff on mental health responses. This will take three years to complete.

Devin Metshin is a suicide prevention trainer through LivingWorks’ ASIST program.

Given how busy police officers are across San Antonio, Messin said training himself and his family to de-escalate tensions and asking direct questions can change the outcome of a crisis.

“We can help with triage so that we don’t overload the system and we’re not relying solely on services that are understaffed,” Messin said. Told. “The more people we can teach to participate in these conversations, the more care we can actually spread throughout the community.”

Even though mental health is at the forefront of City Council and SAPD budget discussions, Foulkes said more needs to be done.

“We need more police officers in the mental health department,” Foulkes said. “We’ll get there eventually.”

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