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New EPPD unit part of novel approach to mental health calls

In order to provide a specialized response to mental health issues in the community, the El Paso City Council approved a three-year agreement with the Emergence Health Network to fund the Crisis Intervention Team alongside the El Paso Police Department.

Emergence Health Network Chief Executive Officer Kristi Daugherty said the goal of the Crisis Intervention Team is “to avoid criminalizing and just sending people to jail when they have a mental illness.”

City Council approved $330,000 to fund additional police trainees to join the force and $530,891 to fund mental health clinicians.

The CIT is comprised of 14 officers, three sergeants and one lieutenant based at El Paso Police Headquarters started responding to potential mental health calls on December 2, 2018.

Assistant El Paso Police Department Chief Peter Pacillas said the team was able to deescalate situation that could have ended in death.

“A veteran was threatening suicide,” he said. “They (CIT) were able to talk him down, and get him into the mental health treatment that he needed. “

Through the past two years, Pacillas said, the amount of calls regarding mental health issues was substantial.

“We’ve had over 7,400 calls,” he said, adding that officers on the El Paso police force are already well versed in mental health training.

“Right now, the El Paso Police Department is ahead of the state requirement, we do more,” said Pascillas. “These (CIT) officers went through an additional 320 hours above what everybody else has. “

Daugherty said officers who showed an interest in mental health were selected based on qualifications, and will be dispatched to potential mental health crisis situations with a clinician.

“Our clinicians will also go through extensive training in order to properly respond deescalate and work through a current situation with regards to crisis to avoid criminalizing and just sending people to jail that have a mental illness. “

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