November 14-15, 2016 | San Antonio, Texas
SLC Human Services & Public Safety Committee Technical Tour
The Center for Health Care Services
A delegation of legislators from five SLC member states convened at The Center for Health Care Services (CHCS) in San Antonio, Texas, November 14-15, 2016, to learn about the innovative strategies San Antonio’s Bexar County has used to support those struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. Delegates were briefed on CHCS’s Restoration Center pre-trial diversion and treatment programs and the 22-acre Haven for Hope campus for homeless and underserved populations. Since its inception in 2003, CHCS’s Jail Diversion Program has successfully redirected more than 100,000 people from jail or emergency rooms and reduced overcrowding in the Bexar County jail system from overcapacity to 800 empty beds. This program has been adopted throughout Texas, saving taxpayers more than $50 million by enabling law enforcement personnel to divert people from the criminal justice system into crisis intervention and mental illness treatment centers.
Participants were briefed on CHCS’s history, services provided, successes in helping vulnerable populations, and continuing growth opportunities from Mr. Leon Evans, CEO, The Center for Health Care Services; Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau; Ms. Valerie Sullivan, administrator, Veterans Service Program (CHCS); Mr. Bruce Thompson, program manager, Children’s Services (CHCS) and Gary Chance, Vice President, Haven for Hope Transformational Services.
Officers Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro from the San Antonio Police Department spoke to delegates about Bexar County’s 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, required for all law enforcement officers. The CIT training program equips officers with skills to quickly identify persons suffering from mental health episodes and de-escalate potentially dangerous situations without the use of force. Bexar County’s CIT training serves as a model throughout the country and has been featured on several national media outlets.
Participants were given a tour of The Restoration Center’s crisis intervention, substance abuse, and residential detoxification facilities, followed by a tour of the Haven for Hope campus. During the tour, participants visited Prospects Courtyard, a joint venture between CHCS and Haven for Hope, which provides food, shelter, and psychiatric and medical treatment to Bexar County’s homeless population 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Delegation participants included Senator Whitney Westerfield, Kentucky; Representative Kathie Conway, Missouri; Representative Michelle Gray, Arkansas; Representative Kit Spires, South Carolina; and Representative George Young, Oklahoma.