“[20 years ago], the police were repeatedly arresting the same people; many not only had a serious mental illness but were also addicted to drugs or alcohol and were often homeless. And whether they went to the jail or the ER, it was expensive for everyone — the jails, the hospitals and the police department that had to pay for overtime while cops waited at the hospital.
San Antonio’s response was to require all officers to take a 40-hour course called Crisis Intervention Training – to learn how to handle mental health crises. But even with strong programs, there’s only so much that training alone can do; there’s still the problem of where to take patients [with serious mental illness].
San Antonio tackled that problem, too. People who commit a felony still go to jail, regardless of their mental status. And those who need extensive medical care are taken to the hospital. But San Antonio built another option: the Restoration Center, a separate facility with a full array of mental and physical health services.
San Antonio and Bexar County have transformed their mental health system into a program considered a model for the rest of the nation. Today, the jails aren’t full, and the city and county have saved $50 million over the past five years.”