Team Help for Amarillo's Mentally Ill

People with mental illness can now count on help from a community team when it comes to trouble with the law. The joint effort between mental health experts and local police brings one Amarillo man peace of mind.

Brian Staples knows what it is to be mentally ill and on the wrong side of the law. He just got off probation for stealing a car. "I do remember the cops comin' over and asking if I was alright," says Staples. "But of course I was in a paranoid state of mind and I was like they're just gonna try to take me to jail if I tell 'em anything.  I'm like 'No, no, I'm doing alright, I'm doing alright."

But now with the launch of a mental health intervention plan that means treatment experts get involved right away, Staples knows things would be different. "Like a crisis team, they.. would've known right there if I was doin' alright or not and they could have said 'Hey,'... talked me into taking me into the hospital before having a big breakdown."

The partnership is about more than helping mental health patients through crisis situations.   "Catching them right at that point and diverting those people from the criminal justice system.. and that way, they don't end up in jail and get the proper treatment," says state mental health spokesman Jim Womack. Staples says with that kind of intervention, he won't end up at odds with police again.