AUSTIN (KXAN) – More and more mental health calls are pouring into the Austin 911 call center, according to Integral Care.
The local Travis County mental health agency handles mental health-related calls to the 911 call center in Austin.
The city has introduced a new option that allows people to instantly contact a local psychiatrist when they dial 911.
“In just the first week of adding mental health services to the 911 script, we had the highest call volume for our clinicians at the 911 call center,” said an Integral Care spokesman.
“It says:” Are you calling the police, fire brigade, ambulance or psychiatric services? “Said Marisa Aguilar, who leads Integral Care’s expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach team at the center.
Aguilar said instead of having police or paramedics make a mental health request, she is now going straight to one of Integral Care’s clinicians stationed at the 911 call center.
“We can do our clinical screening and triage and determine if we can answer this call or if it needs to be redirected to the police in the event of public safety or a medical emergency,” said Aguilar.
She said clinicians could also react directly to the scene in pairs for safety reasons. You can also accompany an officer to the scene or de-escalate the crisis by phone.
Aguilar currently says doctors are available for limited hours every day of the week. She says they hope to expand availability to 24/7.
The move came after a 2018 city audit found that the APD had the highest per capita rate of fatal police shootings of people in a mental crisis out of the 15 largest cities.
The money for the 911 mental health initiative came from a $ 11 million payout from the APD budget.
His family lawyer said Mauris DeSilva (center) worked in nanobot technology for the government and did a PhD in engineering from the University of Minnesota. (Photo: Jarrod Smith)
Jarrod Smith said such help saved Mauris DeSilva’s life.
“He was a brilliant scientist, had an amazing career and, like so many people, had struggled with mental health,” said Smith, who represents DeSilva’s father.
They say he had a crisis in 2019 when the neighbors called 911.
“He’s got a knife on his throat, he’s trying to harm himself, he’s not trying to harm anyone, he doesn’t seem to pose a threat to others, but he’s had some kind of psychological episode and we need someone – they specifically asked that a mental health officer is on hand, ”said Smith, an attorney with the Smith & Vinson law firm.
In previous reports, Austin police said DeSilva held a knife to his throat and pushed it aside when officers asked him. They say that when he went up to officers, two of them fired.
DeSilva’s father is now suing the city of Austin and two officials, alleging they used excessive force in shooting DeSilva fatally during his nervous breakdown.
RELATED: Father Sues Austin City APD Officials After Son Is Killed During A Mental Health Call In 2019
One of these officers was also involved in the Mike Ramos shooting that occurred about nine months after the DeSilva shooting. Both cases are pending in the Civil Rights Division of the Travis County Attorney’s Office.
“We believe this murder could have been prevented by someone who knew what he was doing with the mental health crisis,” said Smith.
He said he fully supports the new 911 call center function and thinks this is a “step in the right direction” and hopes that more help can be provided locally.
“Definitely having someone on site to do mental health training. I believe dr DeSilva’s death would have been prevented, ”said Smith.
KXAN reached out to the City of Austin for a response to the DeSilva family’s lawsuit and has not yet received a response.
So far, according to Integral Care, they have handled about 86% of their mental health calls at the 911 center without the police having to respond.