The City of Galveston introduces an innovative health-first model to navigate behavioral 911 emergencies on the island 

Galveston, Texas  (June 2, 2022)— City of Galveston officials announced plans for a multi-disciplinary response team approach involving its city police, fire, and local mental health authorities, an innovative health-first model to respond to 911 emergency calls involving people with mental health or substance use needs.  

The model, known as a Multi-Disciplinary Response Team (MDRT), will be rolled out in October 2022 in Galveston to transform mental health emergency response and bring that transformation to scale in communities across Texas.  

 

The announcement was part of a roundtable discussion at Galveston City Hall moderated by Tony Fabelo, Ph.D., senior fellow of justice policy, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (Meadows Institute), and included  

 

 

The Hon. Craig Brown, Galveston’s mayor, offered opening remarks, and Dr. Marina Walne, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s Galveston program consultant, introduced the participants. 

 

This community paramedicine approach brings together licensed mental health professionals, paramedics, and specialized law enforcement officers to better address the health care or social needs that are often front and center in these emergencies. At the same time, they can ensure the safety of the person in crisis, others involved, and the responders themselves. 

 

The innovative model is based on a compelling proof of concept developed by the Meadows Institute through a generous grant from the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Fund at Communities Foundation of Texas. The initial implementation launched in early 2018 in Dallas and is now part of a nationwide collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew).

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“We are delighted to be working with The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, and several local foundations focused on the best interest of the residents of Galveston,” Mayor Brown said. “I am confident that this health-first policing model will exemplify how public-private partnerships can make a dramatic difference in the community of Galveston.” 

 

The MDRT model integrates both law enforcement and civilian response in ways that respond to the multiple issues often raised in a single 911 call that may involve mental illness. In addition, MDRT teams must be nested within a set of essential services that permit access to care beyond the immediate crisis, including 24-hour care and responsive community services related to urgent psychiatric care, housing, and other needs. 

 

Through its work with the Meadows Institute, Pew allocated $325,000 as a “challenge grant” to foundations to raise the same amount to fund the MDRT pilot in the City of Galveston.   

 

“Galveston’s health-first response to behavioral health emergencies will provide more options to care for people in crisis while keeping them and first responders safe,” Pew’s Tiffany Russell said. “Galveston mirrors emerging efforts by state and local governments in creating more compassionate and effective responses to behavioral health emergencies.”

 

Six Galveston-focused foundations partnered with Pew and Meadows and donated private funds to incentivize and support the city of Galveston in implementing this initiative.  The Moody Foundation, Mary Moody Northen Endowment, The Permanent Endowment Fund of Moody Methodist Church, Ippolito Charitable Foundation, Harris & Eliza Kempner Fund, and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation collectively allocated $422,500 for the initiative.   

 

"Today's announcement reflects a shared commitment made by philanthropists and community leaders to find and implement a better way to respond to a mental health emergency," said Dr. Andy Keller, president and CEO of the Meadows Institute. "By working together, they have made this important, positive change in how, when, and where mental illness is treated in Galveston."

The Meadows Institute will administer the fund to finance vital elements of the MDRT implementation during the first year and supplement in-kind or financial resources committed by the city of Galveston through its Police and Fire/EMS departments. 

 

The Meadows Institute’s B.J. Wagner manages the planning and technical assistance process with Galveston officials.  

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The debate regarding response to mental health emergencies typically envisions two lanes, one civilian only, the other focused on law enforcement. The MDRT approach integrates both law enforcement and civilian response in ways that respond to the multiple issues often raised in a single 911 call that may involve mental illness.

 

Establishing MDRT capacity cannot occur as a single, isolated intervention. Instead, MDRT teams must be nested within essential services that permit access to care beyond the immediate crisis. 

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The innovative model is based on a compelling proof of concept developed by the Meadows Institute through a generous grant from the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Fund at Communities Foundation of Texas. The initial implementation launched in early 2018 in Dallas and is now part of a nationwide collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew).

Six Galveston-focused foundations partnered with Pew and Meadows and donated private funds to incentivize and support the city of Galveston in implementing this initiative.  The Moody Foundation, Mary Moody Northen Endowment, The Permanent Endowment Fund of Moody Methodist Church, Ippolito Charitable Foundation, Harris & Eliza Kempner Fund, and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation collectively allocated $422,500 for the initiative.   

 

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