Austin ISD awarded money to licensed mental health professionals


AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin Independent School District has received $ 248,245 in federal grants to hire licensed mental health professionals (LMHP) to join its police department.

According to the district, the grant will fund two part-time contract LMHPs who will respond and assess high-risk crisis calls involving items such as trauma, mental health and suicide.

The district believes that the additional support for crisis interventions will result in safer resolutions for everyone involved, while providing officers with a live experience of crisis intervention alongside a licensed professional. It comes as district police see an increase in mental health appeals.

“Cases of domestic violence and child abuse have increased, and some of our calls relate to that, and other calls are only to people who are struggling to cope,” said Sgt. Wayne Sneed, who oversees the department’s mental health division.

Sneed has advocated for this change for the past decade.

“The demand was so high and there weren’t enough resources in place,” Sneed explained. “It probably won’t meet all the needs, but it will help. “

Sneed said after licensed clinicians assess the crisis calls, they will determine whether the child should return home or go to the hospital.

“We strove to the neighborhood for the least restrictive environment, which means that if [the student] can be best served by coming home and being connected to services in the community… so that’s the ultimate goal, ”said Sneed.

The district said this project will also continue anti-bias and verbal de-escalation training among officers. In partnership with LMHP, the AISD police service hopes to develop videos and training materials and put them on an online platform for officer training..

Funding comes from the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Community Policing as part of the Community Policing Development Program.

Austin ISD Family Bulletin

Education Austin, the union representing teachers and district staff, wants to see more mental health professionals, but would like to see them in a different department within the district.

“We think it’s a good thing, but what we don’t want is for them to be housed in the police department, as that could be a trigger,” said Ken Zarifis, president of Education. Austin.

Some AISD teachers who are also parents, like Laura Beck, see resilience in students, but they are also seeing even more mental health issues this school year, like social anxiety and behavioral issues.

“We are now in crisis mode, and I would say the needs for social, emotional and mental support are even more important than tutoring, which seems to be the goal,” said Beck.

In a newsletter, Austin ISD explained its levels of mental health support for students, which begins with the school counselor.

Sgt. Sneed says he hopes these new staff will be added by this school year.

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