Monday, March 29, 2010
Houston PD's Department's Chronic Consumer Stabilization Initiative
HPD a forward-thinking leader in mental health By GEORGE PARNHAM
HOUSTON CHRONICLE March 25, 2010, 8:30PM
As our nation continues to debate the merits of federal health care reform, Houstonians should realize that we have our own health care debate happening right here at home. It involves the people living with mental illness who cycle in and out of our publicly funded emergency rooms, jails and mental health crisis facilities with little hope of stabilization.
While a part of this problem involves a basic lack of access to mental health services, many of these individuals, called “frequent fliers” by law enforcement and medical personnel who have constant contact with them, have simply been receiving the wrong kinds of services. They are victims of our state's crisis-driven system, which provides temporary and limited emergency care for people experiencing a mental health crisis but often fails to provide ongoing community-based services that keep them stabilized and out of expensive acute-care facilities.
While this is a problem faced throughout our state, Houstonians should know that several of our local leaders at the county, city, state and federal levels have stepped up and taken leading roles in addressing this serious public health issue. These individuals, too numerous to name here, should be commended.
An example of this local leadership is the Houston Police Department's Chronic Consumer Stabilization Initiative, or CCSI. HPD's mental health unit, in collaboration with the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County and the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, implemented the CCSI as a pilot program in February 2009. The program provides intensive case management for the 30 individuals with a serious and persistent mental illness who have the most frequent encounters with HPD, and its main goal is to divert these chronic individuals away from their routine and repetitive encounters with law enforcement, provide them with opportunities to lead a more stabilized life and reduce excessive calls for service to the 911 system.
HPD recently issued its final report of the six-month CCSI pilot. Involuntary commitments for the 30 people were reduced by 76.4 percent while offense reports and calls for service involving these 30 decreased by 67.3 percent at a total cost of less than $3,900 per person. In contrast, an average stay at the Harris County Psychiatric Center, which is about 10 days, costs about $3,525 per person. In addition, the number of hours HPD officers spent dealing with this particular group was reduced by almost one-third, meaning officers were better able to deal with other calls for service and criminal activity.
It does not take either a mental health or law enforcement expert to know that these results are impressive. While HPD has long been a leader on mental health issues with its Crisis Intervention Team and Crisis Intervention Response Team programs, the CCSI is different in that it is not a reactive program. CCSI prevents police encounters with people with serious mental illness in the first place, and it provides these people the services they need to have a real chance of leading stable and productive lives that include fewer expensive crisis episodes. This kind of proven and effective program is what many of us have been asking for here in Houston and throughout the state for quite some time.
The city of Houston deserves recognition for funding and implementing such an innovative program. Continuing and expanding the CCSI program would be an additional accomplishment that all Houstonians could be proud of in the future, and I encourage our local leaders to make this a priority for the city.
Parnham is a criminal defense attorney and mental health advocate. He and his wife, Mary, founded the Yates Children Memorial Fund with Mental Health America of Greater Houston to promote women's mental health education.
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- Gilbert R. Gonzales
- Serves as the Director for Bexar County's new Mental Health Department created in December of 2013 by Commissioners Court. Previously he was the Director of Communications and Diversion Initiatives,The Center for Healthcare Services, Mental Health Authority. • Gilbert Gonzales has more than 29 years of experience in the field of substance abuse and mental health crisis prevention and in treatment provision as a clinician, university faculty member, project/program director and policy advisor. Gilbert Gonzales has led strategic planning, treatment, training and policy development. He continues to lead new systems initiatives that help mental health and substance abuse service providers promote collaboration and build service capacity in support of diverse populations.