SAPD Crisis Response Teams merge with Metro Health, offer abuse survivors more resources

Metro Health now employs all civilian members of the Crisis Response Teams across San Antonio

Big changes are beefing up the Crisis Response Teams, or CRTs, at San Antonio Police Department substations in an effort to offer more resources to domestic violence victims.

SAN ANTONIO – Big changes are beefing up the Crisis Response Teams, or CRTs, at San Antonio Police Department substations in an effort to offer more resources to domestic violence victims.

The CRTs deal solely with domestic violence cases. They’re made up of 59 sworn officers and 20 civilian workers, divided up between SAPD’s six substations.

“We’re providing safety plans, we’re talking to the victim about additional resources, we’re explaining to them the various dynamics within family violence and getting them to the shelter,” said Sgt. Ray Villarreal, who supervises SAPD’s CRT at the South Substation.

Both officers and civilian CRT members used to work under SAPD. A new merger with the Metropolitan Health District has positioned the civilian members with better training and the ability to offer more resources. It has also added six case management positions within Metro Health to deal with severe domestic violence cases that come to CRTs.

Civilian CRT members are doing the same work but are now fully employed by Metro Health at the beginning of the fiscal year, which started in October 2020.

“Using a public health prevention approach and marrying the critical response that SAPD divides, and the prevention and social service intervention that public health can provide,” said Jenny Hixon, with Metro Health’s Violence Prevention Department.

Hixon said the CRTs can now provide victims with extra financial support and access to more partnerships.

“We used to have the Battered Women’s Shelter be our only source for relocating somebody. Now we have an additional resource that Metro Health has attached to our program. We have a hotel partnership that they contracted with,” said civilian CRT employee Dalia Rivas, who has been in her role for 22 years.

The survivors are now more easily referred out to other successful Metro Health programs.

“Unfortunately, a lot of domestic violence victims are pregnant, and we’ve been able to make a close collaboration with Healthy Start to be referred right over to Healthy Start,” Hixon said.

A huge part of why civilian CRT members moved under the Metro Health umbrella was the added training.

“A lot of the CRTs are going through the Texas Victims Academy together, and we’re really trying to bring as much of that evidence-based public health approach,” Hixon said.

The training is trauma-informed work that helps both survivors and those assisting them in figuring out the root cause and preventing further violence.

Survivors who are afraid to call the police to their homes for domestic violence can always go to one of the SAPD substations. They can wear a mask, physically show up to the substation and ring the doorbell outside the building. A CRT member will meet survivors outside and begin casework.

If you need to get in touch with a CRT officer, you can contact them at each specific substation, or you can call the SAPD non-emergency number at 210-207-7273.

There is also a long list of resources on the Domestic Violence Page.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.