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City to expand mental health team responding to some 9-1-1 calls with police

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San Antonio will soon have more specially trained teams on the street responding to calls involving a mental health episode. The city is using extra money in the budget to expand a pilot program and combat the mental health crisis.

The SA Core program was launched last year. A three-person team including a specially trained police officer, a paramedic and a licensed clinician, responds with patrol officers to 9-1-1 calls where someone is having a mental health issue.

The Core Team is better prepared to offer help and follow up than police alone.

“That's what I’m afraid of, for my loved one is, he's going to get shot, killed," said a San Antonio woman we spoke to who has a son with mental health problems.

She says her son has been arrested on multiple occasions when he failed to take his medication. She thinks expanding the core team program is the right decision.

“You can't communicate with someone who's not on medicine. Unless you've been trained, you're in that field. If you're not you're going to assume the person is being defiant, not listening, violent," the woman told News 4.

The Core Team is not sent to 9-1-1 calls where someone has a weapon or is violent. So, it was not a factor in the June shooting that killed Melissa Perez. The three officers who responded were fired and charged with murder.

The city council voted to spend $7.2 million to expand from one Core Team to three to cover the city around the clock. The new teams will hit the streets in January.

“We needed to make sure that it was expanded so that they could be available 24 hours a day seven days a week and also handle peak call volume times when people need them the most," said District 7 Councilmember Marina Alderete Gavito.

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