MISSION — Police here are working to survey residents with behavioral health issues to better prepare officers to respond to calls involving those in a mental health crisis.
The Mission Police Department launched its Behavioral Health Awareness Initiative this week with the goal of creating a database on every resident who receives treatment for a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and even drug and alcohol abuse.
The database — the first of its kind in Hidalgo County — will include information such as an individual’s doctor, any prescription they take, previous psychiatric hospitalizations and whether they have a history of suicidal tendencies, among others. The information is collected through a voluntary mental health questionnaire that an individual or a person’s family member can fill out.
“There’s a lot of important information that can be relayed to the officer before arrival,” Mission Police Chief Robert Dominguez said. “The whole purpose of this program is for the officer to have that information readily available upon arrival, then at that time utilizing that information to know a little about that individual he’s going to be making contact with and their particular problem.
“… We want our officers to make an informed decision when they’re confronting an individual (in a mental health crisis)… having that information will be valuable for the officer in how he approaches the situation.”
The information will be relayed to officers on the laptop system in their vehicles to maintain confidentially, Dominguez added.
Dominguez estimates that Mission police receives five to 10 mental health calls a week, and said that as the city’s population increases so do these types of calls.
The chief said the initiative wasn’t promoted by a particular incident, but rather the increase in mental health calls nationwide.
“I don’t want my officers to get to a point of having to use deadly force in a situation like that,” Dominguez said. “I want them to be informed about that particular home; about the individual at that home; his condition; the medication he’s on.”
In February, the city of Mission and three of its police officers were hit with a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a 2016 incident in which officers fatally shot a mentally ill man. The lawsuit alleges that police dispatchers did not relay information about the man’s mental illness to officers.
While Dominguez said he couldn’t comment on the case, he said, “As a progressive police department it’s our responsibility to address whatever issues we see that our community is facing and to address them properly and to be more efficient and effective in the delivery of police services.”
To complete a mental health questionnaire, visit the police department or call (956) 584-5052 to make an appointment with Diana Macias, the crime victims liaison, who can provide assistance in completing the questionnaire.