Officer Brittany Moreno and her team of eight highly-trained officers is ready to take on one of the biggest issues facing adults today: mental health.
Between January 1, 2023 and September 19, 2023, 2,354 mental health calls were received by Sugar Land PD. In May, Sugar Land PD launched of a new team aimed to improve the outcome of mental health calls. The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is intended to create connections between law enforcement, mental health provides, hospital emergency services and individuals with a history of mental illness and their families.
Moreno, who in addition to being a police officer earned her master’s degree in forensic psychology from the University of Houston-Victoria, has always had a passion for mental health.
“Originally, I was going to try and branch off to leave policing,” Moreno said. “But it’s always been a dream of mine to be a police officer. Now, I have the chance to merge the two things that I love. I love being a cop, but I also really care about mental health and psychology.”
Every officer in Texas is required to go through a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training, but Moreno and her team go above and beyond to ensure they are appropriately equipped to handle whatever may come their way on a mental health call. Each member of the Crisis Intervention Team goes through a three-day course to receive a special Certified Mental Health Officer certification, where they teach additional skills like de-escalation. Participants must complete a pre-test, post-test and project to receive the certification.
With the chance to merge her college background with the mental health training she gets as a police officer, Moreno is now a Certified Mental Health Officer and leads a team of eight other Certified Mental Health Officers as part of the Crisis Intervention Team.
The team’s focus includes creating partnership with local and national mental health organizations to ensure both residents and police officers remain safe. The team works with mental health facilities, hospitals, Fire-EMS, surrounding agencies with established CIT teams, and public safety dispatchers in order to ensure that any mental health calls received in Sugar Land are treated with the utmost care and respect.
The team meets with St. Luke’s Hospital, Memorial Hermann and Methodist on a regular basis, as well as Texana and Voyages – two local mental health facilities.
While Moreno said it’s not common for cities to have their own CIT teams, the need for these types of teams is slowly growing around the U.S. due to an increased need to stay at home because of COVID.
“Our city has three hospitals and we’re centrally located, so there’s definitely a need,” Moreno said. “Our officers want to take care of the needs in our community, and I think this is a great step in the right direction to doing all we can to help with mental health.”