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Houston Matters

Sheriff’s Deputies Have A New, High-Tech Way To Respond To Mental Health Emergencies

A pilot program will give some deputies iPads from which they can connect patients with a mental health professional live in the field.



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When deputies from the Harris County Sheriff's Office respond to a call where someone is having a mental health crisis, some of them will now have a new, high-tech way to handle those situations.

The sheriff’s office launched a telepsychiatry pilot program on Tuesday (Dec. 19), which will allow equipped deputies to connect immediately with psychiatrists via an iPad.

Houston Matters learns how the program will work from Frank Web, project manager with the Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion at the Harris County Sheriff's Office, and Dr. Avrim Fishkind, a local psychiatrist who’s president of the Houston-based company JSA Health Telepsychiatry.

Webb says the sheriff’s office is the only law enforcement agency in the nation that he’s aware of using this approach in the field.

“To be able to have direct access to a psychiatrist on the scene is huge,” he said. “Obviously that psychiatrist can help assess, evaluate, and actually even call in a prescription to a local pharmacy. So, there’s a lot of benefits.”

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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