Galveston using teams to respond to mental health 911 emergencies

Transcribed from an audio news report

The rising cost of living has been a rising source of stress for many people in Galveston. And mental health resources can be limited on the island compared to some places such as Houston.

BJ Wagner is vice president of health and public safety for the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, which has been working with Galveston on how to handle mental health emergencies: "The average household income in Galveston does not necessarily support constant outpatient psychiatric visits compared to, say, Houston."

And when those calls rise to a public safety risk, Wagner says a traditional police response often results in someone going to jail or to the emergency room.

"Police officers are not the relief for medical emergencies. And the medical system in Galveston is fairly disconnected from first responders' mental health alternative responses. Wagner says Galveston is now using teams to respond. These teams include a mental health professional from the Gulf Coast Center, along with a Galveston paramedic, and a police officer to make sure the scene is safe.

I'm Gail Delaughter, Houston Public Media's News 88.7.

For additional information on the Galveston COAST program, visit the City of Galveston COAST Multidisciplinary Response Program.

Galveston COAST is funded and supported by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation in collaboration with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Galveston-based foundations, including the Moody FoundationHarris & Eliza Kempner Fund, Ippolito Charitable Foundation, Mary Moody Northen Endowment, and the Sasser Family Foundation.


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