Officials plan to expand Abilene Community Response Team

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ABILENE, Texas (KRBC/KTAB)-The Abilene Community Response Team (CRT) has been up and running for three months, but officials have said there are plans to expand the program to meet Abilene’s needs.

Back in February, Abilene city manager Robert Hanna proposed the CRT to handle mental health crises.

“There’s an opportunity to divert them from the criminal justice system and get them in touch with proper mental health care,” said Hanna. “It saves the taxpayers money, and it doesn’t criminalize something that shouldn’t be criminalized.”

The team is composed of three experts–a police officer, a fire paramedic and a mental health professional from Betty Hardwick Center.

Abilene resident Joseph Deems said he was initially excited when he heard the inception of the program. His husband is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sometimes neglects to take his medication.

“I’d called the CRT team to come out and evaluate him,” said Deems. “Once, he threatened to stab me and the other time he punched me several times in the head.”

But, he said the response from his call in a time of crisis did not meet his expectations.

“A mental health crisis–you never know when it’s going to happen,” Deems said. “You don’t know if it’s going to happen at 8 o’clock in the morning or three o’clock in the morning.”

Currently, the CRT responds to calls from 8 to 5 pm Tuesday through Friday, but Deems needed response after hours.

Lt. Scott Hill of Abilene Police Department says APD recognizes this time gap.

“We are trying to secure funds for a second team that will run opposite of the first team at this point,” said Hill.

APD said there is a clear concentration of mental health issues in the Key City, with the team receiving a high volume of calls since its deployment in June.

“They have responded to over 560 calls for service, over 150 of those have been immediate crisis responses,” said Hill.

If you need the community response team, they can be reached through APD’s non-emergency number. If they are unable to respond or if there is an emergency, call 911.

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