Spindletop Center to assist first responders with mental health evaluations

Published 1:41 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2018

By Ginger Broomes

The Orange Leader

Representatives of Spindletop Center of Beaumont seek to enter into an agreement with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orange County as part of their “A.S.A.P.” program in order to fund the salary and benefits of a future Mental Health Liaison Deputy for the county. A.S.A.P. stands for Assist, Stabilize And Prevent. As part of Spindletop’s ongoing mental health programs, A.S.A.P. was designed to assist first responders with mental health evaluations.

The goal of the program is to work with law enforcement and mental health professionals to evaluate individuals who may be in crisis, to help get them the resources they need and link them up to mental health resources (like Spindletop Center).

Tommy Smith, a former employee at the sheriff’s department who retired for a career in mental health at Spindletop, addressed Orange County Commissioners Court at the Tuesday afternoon meeting.

“We started this program four years ago and what we’ve found is that law enforcement is becoming the first responders of mental illness,” Smith said, citing statistics that said one out of three people brought to a mental health facility was taken there by law enforcement.

A liaison would be acting in that role.

The program’s ultimate goal is to try to prevent people in a mental health crisis from going to jail because of that crisis.

After four years in Jefferson County, Smith said the estimated savings for Jefferson County so far with the A.S.A.P. program was $6,216 339. The group was also approved to provide screening services for inmates at the county jail that are suspected to have a mental health condition.

The agreement was approved by the Court and funding will be provided by Spindletop, who is, in turn, funded by the state of Texas.

Judge Dean Crooks announced that, per FEMA, the Disaster Recovery Center at the Orange County Expo Center will be closed at the end of May. FEMA will still have staff available for claims in the Orange area by appointment once a place to conduct the appointment is decided.

An appointment phone number will be made public for residents.

Judge Crooks also mentioned that he would be having a meeting with other elected officials and department heads, without the other commissioners, at 10 a.m. on Thursday May 24, in Commissioners Courtroom.

Crooks characterized the meeting as a “getting to know you” meeting, and a way to get direction from the others on what they want to do going forward, as usually the department heads don’t have opportunities to get together in such a format.

“Open and transparent communication is a good thing,” Crooks said. “I want that to be a hallmark of the time that I’m here, and so that’s why we’re having that meeting.”

Although citizens and press are not prohibited from attending, it is not a posted meeting, so the other commissioners cannot be there at that time.