New approach to helping homeless kicks off in SA

I.M.P.A.C.T. Team aims to eliminate 'arrest first' approach

SAN ANTONIO – A new program to help the homeless on the streets of San Antonio was announced Thursday.

Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood were joined by mental health leaders at a news conference at Public Safety Headquarters to announce the creation of Integrated Mobile Partners Action Care or I.M.P.A.C.T. Team.

The team consists of two mentally-health-trained police officers, a fire department paramedic, a mental health professional and an outreach program specialist. The team, which has been on the streets of San Antonio for a week, will get to know homeless people and diagnose and meet their specific needs.

"If there's a need for medical treatment, the paramedics will provide that immediately," McManus said. "The police officer and the CIT police officer will talk with them and try to persuade them to get any number of services that are available."

McManus said the program will also cut down on unnecessary arrests because officers will try to eliminate the "arrest first" approach.

Another benefit of the new approach is that fewer ambulances will be called to assist homeless people who don't need to go to a hospital, which gives ambulance crews more time to respond to real emergencies, Hood said.