Justice Department grants Pharr police $500,000 for mental health unit

The Pharr Police Department and Tropical Texas Behavioral Health announced Friday that the Justice Department has awarded a $550,000 grant to the agency’s mental health division.

The grant, which was awarded on December 16 last year, will help the department maintain and grow its mental health division, according to Pharr chief Andy Harvey.

The unit was set up in December 2020 to educate officials on how to respond to cases where a person is experiencing a mental health crisis. The unit was Harvey’s effort to ensure that his officers did not resort to excessive use of force, improper use of force, and improper imprisonment in such scenarios.

Tropical Texas Behavioral Health has worked with the department since its inception.

“They are an important part of our mental health department because they bring not only their expertise but their resources and their networks to help us help people out here,” Harvey said.

Harvey said the department’s collaboration with Tropical is unique because the department has a behavioral health center clinician who is embedded within the mental health department. He said the clinician responds to mental health crises with police officers while also helping with follow-up care to ensure people get the right help they need.

“It’s been a while that we’ve incorporated one of our Tropical clinicians into a special mental health division that Chief Harvey set up for the city of Pharr PD,” Tropical Texas CEO Terry Crocker said Friday. “Once this started to gel and have an impact, we supported this with our business development and now we are trying to find financing options to offset these costs.”

Crocker said the $550,000 grant will hopefully do just that while helping expand the program. He added that he saw interest from other police departments across the Rio Grande Valley to set up and develop their own mental health units.

“Everyone agrees that mental health issues are a big part of what officers do during their day, on their shifts and as part of their job,” Crocker said. “We just see it as best practice to have some officers there who are trained and specialized; a specialized team that can respond to critical incidents, if instructed to do so by the police.”

Harvey said he’s glad to see the fruits of his labor continue to grow within the agency and benefit the citizens of Pharr.

“To see it growing and manifesting as it is and knowing that it will continue to grow is so good for our city,” Harvey said. “I can’t wait to see what the next step is because this thing is growing. It makes more of an impression than I thought. It’s really exciting.”

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