City of Abilene Multidisciplinary Community Response Team Study
The City of Abilene launched a multidisciplinary Community Response Team to improve justice system performance in responding to mental health crisis 911 calls. The Meadows Institute was engaged to provide technical assistance, research expertise, and process and impact evaluation for its implementation.
The use of multidisciplinary community response teams (CRTs) shifts the focus of mental health crisis response from law enforcement to paramedics and health systems creating the same type of health – based response to mental health crises that are used for other health emergencies.
In 2019, the City of Abilene partnered with the Abilene Police Department, Abilene Fire Department, Taylor County Sheriff’s Office, Hendrick Medical Center, and Betty Hardwick Center to launch the city’s first CRT, supported by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance Justice Reinvestment Institute. We provided technical assistance, research expertise, and process and impact evaluation.
The Abilene CRT is comprised of an officer from the Abilene Police Department, a paramedic from the Abilene Fire Department and a behavioral health professional from the Betty Hardwick Center. This integrated team responds to mental health crisis calls placed through 911. Team members are trained to deescalate a crisis while protecting public safety, assessing both physical and mental health needs on the scene. The team is equipped to link the person experiencing a crisis with treatment resources to avoid jail or an emergency room. They also provide follow-up care for individuals identified by partner agencies as having mental health care needs.
After the successful launch of the initial CRT, agency partners added a second team in 2020.
We are currently evaluating the impact of the second CRT on law enforcement, dispatch to behavioral health crisis calls, and local emergency rooms, and monitoring the CRT ’s self-reported compassion satisfaction and watch es for signs of burnout through regular self-administered surveys. Our team is also measuring the engagement of community partners, including the Behavioral Advisory Team, using measurement tools developed specifically for this project.