24/7 mental health responders, homeless support could come from increased funding

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council has approved increased funding for the city’s mental health response program and additional resources to people who are homeless.

Approved on consent, the funding will go toward both the Homeless Outreach Street Team and the Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team at Travis County’s Integral Care, according to the meeting agenda. The homeless outreach team will receive $137,000 in additional funding while the mobile crisis team will receive a total of over $4 million over three years.

Some of the goals are to have 24/7 mental health first-responders in the city and shift away from traditional the 911 response, said council member Greg Casar. He said he hopes to avoid future incidents involving mental health crises such as the police killing of David Joseph and the ICE detention of Tanya Silva.

“This is a program that can save lives, that can serve the community, that will really reduce the number of calls that police officers have to go, and make sure that people get response that they need,” Casar said. “The really important goal is here is that we’ll be able to respond to well over 5,000 calls away from traditional 911 response into trained mental health first responders.”

There are over 2,500 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in Austin as of 2020, according to Austin ECHO.

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