‘I feel like I can trust somebody now:’ Pharr PD’s mental health unit holds training

By: Tanvi Varma

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Days after a 25-year-old man was killed in Weslaco in a shooting involving deputies with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, officers with the Pharr Police Department held a training to improve their response to calls where mental health is a factor.

Nicolas Perez-Zepeda, a mental health officer with Pharr PD, starts his day by checking in on previous callers with mental health issues. One caller anonymously told Channel 5 why she was desperate for their help. 

"There's a lot of violence, and drugs, and everything, and I have four kids," the caller said, adding that police provided her with a list of mental health resources near her.

"I feel like I can trust somebody now," she said.

Perez-Zepeda says Pharr PD’s mental health unit, which started just under a year ago, is taking a more progressive stance on policing. 

"When it comes to a mental health crisis, there's more to it than just arriving to a scene and putting cuffs on somebody,” Perez-Zepeda said. 

Pharr PD has trained 15 officers as mental health officers, which means they have 40 hours of additional mental health training. Alongside police, a mental health officer or clinician will come to the scene of a distressed caller. Hospital leaders and other community partners say it has helped the way they take care of people.

If you or a loved one is in need of mental health help, you can call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

RELATED: Sheriff’s office: Deputies involved in fatal Weslaco shooting put on paid administrative leave


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