San Antonio’s mental health pilot program gets go-ahead to expand

KSAT’s Garrett Brnger joined in a ride along with the SA Core team

San Antonio – Sitting outside public safety headquarters, San Antonio Police Officer Roger Astin scrolled through the incoming calls for service and looked for signs of mental health issues.

Astin and the other two members of the SA Core team, a San Antonio Fire Department paramedic and a mental health clinician from the Center for Health Care Services, never know what they’ll get.

The team screens out calls that involve weapons and people being otherwise physically aggressive, but the situations they encounter can still run the gamut.

Some are for people in crisis and possibly feeling suicidal, while other calls may have someone in the throws of a psychotic episode and disconnected from reality.

Whatever they encounter, the goal remains the same: to help. Most often, the calls are resolved at the scene. And clinicians can follow up with the patient later to see what else they can do.

“The...most beneficial impact to mental health treatment is going to be the long-term follow-up services,” said Ryan, the team’s clinician.

While having to perform emergency detention or transport someone to a facility for further help also happens regularly. But out of 1,465 calls for service, the team responded to in the first year, only six ended with arrests.

The pilot program began in April 2022, operating only out of the Central substation, which covers downtown and the near West Side.

During a mid-year budget adjustment on May 18, the city council voted to expand the program to three teams to cover the entire city. The two new teams are expected to come online in January 2023.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.