What is the Mental Health Squad? How can it help stop overcrowding in the jail system? The Mental Health Squad is "a six-person unit that answers the frequent emergency calls where mental illness may be an issue," reports NPR. This squad was formed because of the overcrowding in the Bexar County Jail in San Antonio.

What is the cause? People suffering from a serious mental illness. In fact, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, "the total number of prison and jail inmates who were seriously mentally ill in 2012 would total approximately 356,000 inmates. This is equivalent to the population of cities such as Anchorage, Alaska; Montgomery, Alabama; Peoria, Illinois; or Trenton, New Jersey."

Therefore, the City of San Antonio decided to address this problem by using a technique called "Smart Justice," which places people with a serious mental illness in a treatment center instead of jail. In order to know how to deal with the mentally ill, San Antonio Police Officers needed to be trained. Now they are required to take a 40 hour course called Crisis Intervention Training.

The City of San Antonio built a facility called the Restoration Center which provides mental and physical health services to the mentally ill. NPR states, "More than 18,000 people pass through the Restoration Center each year and officials say the coordinated approach has saved the city more than $10 million annually."

Kudos to the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Department for tackling a very difficult issue for many cities around the world! I hope others learn from your example of the possiblity of treating people with a serious mental illness humanely.

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