Bryan Police Department forms Mental Health Unit

BPD said interactions between police and those suffering a mental health crisis can often turn violent
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 2:47 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:15 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Bryan Police Department has formed a Mental Health Unit, comprised of three officers, after there has been a “significant increase in the awareness of law enforcement interactions with people suffering from mental illness,” across the country.

A release from BPD said these interactions often turn violent due to a lack of trust from someone suffering a mental health crisis with police.

“We see it as providing an additional service to our community and we’re excited about it. We’re optimistic about the future but it’s also going to be adaptable,” said Chief Eric Buske. “If we find there’s a better way to do it we’ll look at that, so we’re open to possibilities but right now we’re pleased with how we’re doing.”

The Mental Health Unit, which was formed in April 2021, is trained to deescalate potentially violent situations and work collaboratively with the community and local mental health authorities.

The unit was created with the hopes to divert people in mental health crises from jails to behavioral treatment facilities.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to spend a little more time fixing a problem where you’re not actually maybe taking someone into custody and taking them to jail. We’re actually providing them with the help that makes a huge change in their life,” said Ron Stautzenberger a mental health officer.

According to BPD, the officers respond to calls that directly involve persons in a mental health crisis. The officers will also follow up with occasional home visits and phone calls to ensure the person is not in crisis, makes doctor’s visits and is taking prescribed medication.

“We started to establish some pretty decent relationships with a number of individuals that have had issues in the past and continue to have them. And what that does is it allows that individual to come to trust us and it also allows us to see what that person is like when they’re mentally in good condition and allows us to see if there’s a deterioration in that,” said Stautzenberger.

With only three officers assigned to the Mental Health Unit, BPD also provided Mental Health Peace Officer training to 30 officers. The training focused on recognizing when a person is in crisis, communication skills, and de-escalation techniques.

“It makes you aware of what mental illness is and maybe things that we don’t necessarily feel because we haven’t been through that type of a problem and ways to talk to the people who are having those problems and also ways to get them help,” said Stautzenberger.

Since its inception, the Mental Health Unit has responded to 112 calls involving a person in a mental health crisis, completed 73 home visits, and conducted 191 follow-up phone calls.

“They’ve got a husband a wife or children or moms and dads or uncles that see you making a positive impact on their lives and that to me is very rewarding,” said Stautzenberger.

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