When members of the San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Detail took the stage to accept the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio‘s Spirit of Health award on Tuesday, the crowd of more than 200 rose to its feet to honor their efforts in crisis prevention and intervention.

“These officers rush to the most volatile scenes and guide the mentally ill to peaceful resolutions,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, comparing the unit’s work to walking a high wire without a safety net. “These officers orchestrate positive outcomes [which] takes great skill and empathy.”

Since its inception in 2012, the Spirit of Health award has recognized individuals and organizations that work to improve the overall health in their communities.

The Mental Health Detail was created in 2008 due to “an increasing need within [the] community for officers with an additional level of training when it comes to assisting people with mental health [issues],” SAPD Assistant Chief Anthony Treviño told the Rivard Report after Tuesday’s ceremony at the First Baptist Church of San Antonio.

Its mission is to keep people who struggle with mental health issues out of jail or prison by connecting them to resources in the community and providing them with the opportunity to “mainstream back into society,” Treviño said.

“This is a grassroots effort to reach out to those members of our community” and reduce  concerns within families, he added.

Officers in the mental health unit receive 40 hours of additional training on how to respond to people in crisis, deescalate volatile or violent behavior, and connect people to appropriate services. The unit has grown from six members last year to 10 officers and one supervisor in 2017. More than 100,000 people have been diverted from emergency rooms, jails, and prisons due to the mental health detail crisis intervention program, according to a Baptist Health Foundation release.

Assistant Chief Anthony Treviño (right) presents the Spirit of Health Award to San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Detail officers.
Assistant Chief Anthony Treviño (right) presents the Spirit of Health Award to the San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Detail officers. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The Baptist Health Foundation has pledged to make a donation on behalf of SAPD to the 100 Club of San Antonio, which provides counseling and therapeutic services to families of fallen first responders and officers who were seriously injured in the line of duty.

Tuesday’s ceremony also celebrated nearly $7 million in grants awarded to area nonprofits that focus on health awareness, improvement, and education. The foundation gave $600,000 – the second largest grant in the organization’s history – to CentroMed for the forthcoming construction of a 16,000-square foot primary care clinic and accompanying 19,000 square-foot fitness center in the Indian Creek area on the city’s Southwest side.

Founder and CEO of the Baptist Health Foundation Cody Knowlton
Cody Knowlton, President and CEO of the Baptist Health Foundation

There is a shortage of primary care physicians in the 78242 zip code, Baptist Health Foundation President and CEO Cody Knowlton told the Rivard Report, and people living in that area are at high risk for ongoing health problems. “It spoke volumes to our board that there was this tremendous need,” Knowlton said.

“This year we were able to do a lot more thanks to investments and the vision of the board to grant more funds to those in need,” Knowlton said. The ability to give more money this year “couldn’t have come at a better time,” he explained, as organizations need “more funds due to cutbacks from state and other government funds.”

The second largest grant given out at the 2017 awards ceremony went to ChildSafe, which received $479,850 for its Salado Creek Campus, a 65,000-square foot facility slated for the city’s Eastside. ChildSafe is a trauma-focused care center for child victims and survivors of abuse, neglect, and domestic violence in the San Antonio area, according to its website.

The $33 million building is being made possible by public and private donors and a public partnership with the City of San Antonio.

More than 90 organizations received funding from the Baptist Health Foundation, which has awarded 792 grants totaling more than $55 million since 2005. In 2016, the foundation awarded grants worth $5.7 million to area organizations.

BHFSA Grants are limited to:

  • Health care clinics
  • Indigent care programs
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Mobile health and primary care facilities
  • Substance abuse programs
  • Behavioral health facilities
  • Health education scholarships
  • and other not-for-profit health care providers

To learn how to apply for a grant, visit the foundation’s website.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.