Officials work on improving mental health services after studies show waste of taxpayer money

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - Leaders in Bexar County are undertaking a new initiative that will improve the treatment of homeless people, individuals suffering from mental illness and chronic illness.

The initiative comes after a series of studies in 2015 revealed that of 9,000 annual emergency detentions of psychiatric patients at local emergency rooms, only half of the patients needed any type of emergency care. The studies showed that the other half required only immediate psychiatric care.

Officials said that the treatment of the thousands of people who didn't need emergency care put a strain on emergency rooms, created overcrowding and long emergency room wait times and created high costs for local law enforcement agencies because officers had to wait with the patients. 

"The study identified a significant group of disadvantaged individuals who were frequently utilizing services in various ERs, hospitals, crisis care centers and even ending up in jail, without any coordination of care or regular follow-up," a news release from the Southwest Texas Crisis Collaborative stated.

Now, authorities hope to improve collaboration among all hospitals, philanthropic organizations, Haven for Hope, law enforcement agencies, firefighters and emergency medical services and behavioral health providers. 

The Southwest Texas Crisis Collaborative aims to end ineffective use of services for those who are homeless, suffer from mental health issues and chronic illness.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood will meet with officials from three local hospitals on Monday to discuss how to better utilize existing resources.

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