The Williamson County Commissioners Court altered an agreement Jan. 5 with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services that redefines when the county’s Mobile Outreach Team responds to mental health emergencies.
Bluebonnet Trails will now be responsible for conducting mental health assessments for patients at a hospital staff’s request. County Commissioner Lisa Birkman said allowing Bluebonnet to respond to hospital requests will let the MOT help other people in crisis outside of hospitals. Bluebonnet Trails, Williamson County’s mental health care provider, provides emergency mental health services and connects people experiencing a mental health crisis with appropriate resources, including clinic-based care and inpatient care.
Williamson County created the MOT in 2004 to offer assistance to people suffering from emotional or psychological crises. The state of Texas contracts with local mental health authorities to ensure emergency mental health services are available in all 254 Texas counties.
The MOT refocused its resources because of a 45 percent increase in call volume, and county commissioners changed the agreement to allow Bluebonnet Trails to respond to calls coming in to the MOT crisis hotline between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
“We’ve basically had more calls than we could handle, and it’s time to figure out how we can effectively help the mentally ill,” Birkman said. “We hope that this is a good compromise with Bluebonnet agreeing to take over these calls.”
The crisis hotline has been receiving about 3,500 to 4,000 calls per year, said Annie Burwell, the director of the outreach team. Letting Bluebonnet take the night calls will drop the call volume by 400 to 500 calls per year, which will help the outreach team help others in crisis inside of their homes, she said.
Similar efforts are being made in Austin to get people access to mental health resources. Austin Travis County Integral Care and the Austin Police Department are working with Emergency Medical Services to increase jail and hospital diversion for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
For example, if someone commits a victimless crime, such as trespassing, and a police officer believes the person may be in psychiatric crisis, an ATCIC licensed professional counselor or social worker can be called to the scene to conduct an assessment.