Federal grant funds expansion of Pharr PD's Mental Health Unit
The Pharr Police Department is expanding its mental health unit thanks to a federal grant of more than $500,000.
Texas Tropical Behavioral Health and Pharr PD commemorated the partnership achievement on Monday. In 2020, the two organizations created Pharr PD's Mental Health Unit, consisting of six crisis intervention trained officers and one full-time clinician.
Thanks to a $550,000 grant from the Department of Justice, Pharr PD will add two officers and an additional clinician to the team.
"It's going to have a full team of officers dedicated to mental health on a full-time basis," Pharr police Chief Andy Harvey said.
CEO of Tropical Texas Behavioral Health Terry Crocker says body camera footage of an encounter involving Pharr PD's Mental Health Unit shows the need for more specialized mental health trained officers in the Valley.
In the body camera video, a suspected active shooter recognized Mental Health Officer Nick Pedraza. Officials said that same suspect had a crisis encounter with Pedraza nearly a year before but still recognized him, de-escalating the situation.
"He remembered him because he helped him. We didn't just arrest him and take him straight to jail and forget about it," Harvey said. "No, no. We built a relationship, we got him the help that he needed, and he remembered that. Even when he was in crisis at this time, he remembered that. Because of that, we were able to de-escalate and get everybody out of there [safely]."
Harvey says he hopes the federal grant influences other departments to take action and establish their own similar mental health unit.
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