Austin council considers adding millions to budget for mass shooting response, mental health crises

Jasper Brown, interim chief of Austin Travis County EMS, proposed that the city add $1.2 million to its budget for EMS to prepare for mass shootings. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Jasper Brown, interim chief of Austin Travis County EMS, proposed that the city add $1.2 million to its budget for EMS to prepare for mass shootings. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Jasper Brown, interim chief of Austin Travis County EMS, proposed that the city add $1.2 million to its budget for EMS to prepare for mass shootings. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin City Council heard proposals to add millions to the city’s budget for mental health services and in response to June’s mass shooting on Sixth Street.

Andy Hofmeister, emergency medical services assistant chief, asked City Council to authorize an additional $7.3 million to fund the Integral Care Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, or EMCOT, Field Response, which diverts 911 calls from police to clinicians. EMS asked for another $1.2 million for training and ballistic vests in response to the June 12 shooting that killed one and injured more than a dozen people.

Hofmeister said at the August 3 budget workshop that the $7.3 million would allow the EMCOT call center to meet its goal of responding to 100% of 911 calls for mental health incidents.

The council authorized funding to hire 14 personnel for the EMCOT response system in last year’s budget, but staffing shortages across EMS have made it difficult to fill those positions, Hofmeister said.

While the call center is staffed 24/7, only two clinicians are answering calls. With roughly 50,000 mental health crisis 911 calls each year and each call taking at least several minutes to address, Hofmeister said two clinicians end up with a backlog of calls.

EMS interim Chief Jasper Brown proposed adding $3.2 million to the budget for an additional 40 EMS positions. Another $1.2 million in one-time costs would better prepare EMS for mass shootings, Brown said.

Of that $1.2 million, Brown said $402,000 would pay for active attacker training, and $800,000 would cover ballistic vests that, rather than only defending against small arms, could also block rifle ammunition, similar to what is used in AR-15 weapons.

The council did not make decisions on funding August 3 but will continue to discuss the proposals.
By Maggie Quinlan

Reporter, Southwest Austin/Dripping Springs

Maggie joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in July 2021 after a year spent covering crime, courts and politics at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, near the border with Idaho. In Southwest Austin and Dripping Springs, Maggie covers education, business, healthcare, transportation, real estate development and nonprofits. Prior to CI, she graduated from Washington State University, where she was managing editor of the student newspaper and a section editor at her hometown newspaper based in Moscow, Idaho. Maggie dreamed of living in the Austin area for years and feels honored to serve the communities of Southwest Austin and Dripping Springs.


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