418 – Behavioral Health Division

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I. Purpose

To provide quality behavioral health services to classified and Professional Staff members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) as they seek to carry out their duties effectively and safely. Services are delivered in four (4) primary areas: Confidential Mental Health Care, Critical Incident Services, Outreach/Prevention/Training, and Consultation, to current employees and/or their eligible dependents.

II. Policy

The Behavioral Health Division (BHD) provides services in the following areas: 

A. Confidential Mental Health Care includes evaluation, consultation, treatment, and/or referral services, and is offered to facilitate improved personal, interpersonal, and occupational functioning of employees and their eligible family members.

1. Services are voluntary in nature and confidential as required by Sections 611.001-611.008 of the Texas Health & Safety Code, with exceptions as provided by law (e.g., the abuse of children, the handicapped, or the elderly, which would require mandatory reporting) and by policy (i.e., danger to self or others, which allows action to protect the individual or others).

2. No information regarding any service, including the fact that a service was provided, may be released to any HCSO employee or family member without written authorization from the employee.

B. Critical Incident Services are provided: (1) to address immediate reaction(s) to a critical incident, or to chronic operational stress; (2) to determine whether a crisis response has occurred; (3) to provide education, and (4) to determine whether there is evidence of impairment which requires further assessment or intervention. These visits are often referred to as psychological debriefing. Although Command Staff may require an employee’s participation in some instances, these services are distinct from administrative referral avenues available to supervisors (through the HCSO Human Resources office) such as mandated Counseling (typically through the County insurance provided Employee Assistance Program (EAP)) or Fitness-for Duty Evaluations (FFDE). Rather, these services are nonevaluative in nature and meant to facilitate employee access to resources and education in order to prevent negative personal or occupational outcomes.

1. Employees MAY be referred for fatality accidents; the death of a deputy; deputies involved in family disturbance/violence incidents; death, injury or illness to a deputy’s immediate family member, or other exposure to potentially traumatic experiences. [CALEA Standard 4.2.3]

2. Referral is currently MANDATORY for classified personnel who have been involved directly in an officer-involved shooting, and once every two years for personnel assigned to select, high-exposure assignments.

Employees’ assigned to specific units or divisions, prior to their transfer, are mandated to attend a wellness check. Assignment to CAC, Homicide, and VCU are the primary units of interest due to the involvement in harsh and traumatic events encountered. Other units may be required at the discretion of the Sheriff or his designee. This wellness check will be mandatory every two years thereafter.   

3. The content of these sessions is confidential, although if referred by their leadership, employees may consent to allow the BHD to confirm their attendance. If an employee’s supervisor mandated the session, it will be the employee’s responsibility to confirm the employee’s attendance only with his or her supervisor.

C. Outreach/Prevention/Training includes routine, regular efforts – via public information campaigns, email, newsletters, and other media, as well as regular, in-person engagement with units/personnel, via roll-calls, ride-alongs, and other scheduled and unscheduled events –  to destigmatize, demystify, and improve awareness and utilization of mental health resources, as well as:

1. Academy & In-service Training.  Behavioral Health staff routinely lecture and assist in the development of mandatory or elective academy and in-service classes on mental health issues, e.g. dealing with disturbed offenders, identifying and intervening with mentally ill persons, de-escalation techniques, stress/anger management, wellness, substance abuse, etc. 

2. Wellness Initiatives.  Behavioral Health staff lead focused outreach, prevention, and training efforts such as Suicide Prevention, Operational Stress Management, Family Readiness, and Substance Abuse Prevention.

3. Community Provider Engagement. The BHD recognizes and encourages HCSO employees to seek mental health care from a variety of community resources, such as nonprofit/pro-bono organizations, insurance and EAP providers, and other healthcare resources.  In addition, some elements of care (e.g., psychiatry and, residential/inpatient treatment) are not available directly through the BHD. To this end, BHD staff regularly engage and involve our community partners in awareness and training initiatives aimed at increased cultural competency for caregivers seeking to serve the law enforcement population. 

4. Peer Support Team.  A BHD staff member serves as Mental Health Director for HCSO’s Peer Support Team.  In addition to providing consultation, he or she provides or coordinates regular quarterly training for the Peer Support Team.

D. Consultation is available face-to-face or via phone when requested by Peer Support Team Members, Supervisors, Managers, Command Staff, or the Sheriff to assist in crisis and non-crisis incidents including, but not limited to:

1. Operational activities such as All Hazards/Crisis Response, Hostage Negotiations, Investigations.

2. Developmental or oOccupation-relevant situations such as training or workplace issues, line of duty deaths, employee suicide, internal affairs investigations.

3. Interventional domains such as Peer-led Critical Incident Stress Management, general employee referral or employee fitness questions. The Behavioral Health Division does NOT conduct Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations (FFDE), but does provides expert consultation to supervisors attempting to determine the need for such.

III. Procedure

A. Confidential Mental Health Care.

Employees or their dependents seeking voluntary, confidential mental health services may call the Behavioral Health Clinic at 346-286-3150 to schedule an appointment. The hours of operation Monday – Friday from 0800-1600. Appointments are scheduled on a first come, first serve basis, or as determined by the BHD Director. 

1. Administrative Referrals. The HCSO Human Resources office provides supervisors with avenues to administratively refer employees for Fitness-for-Duty Evaluation (FFDE) or for mandated cCounseling, typically through insurance-provided Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Participation in appropriately referred services becomes a condition of continued employment. In some cases, employees may be able to elect to complete requirements (e.g., recommendations for follow-up counseling following a FFDE) through the BHD. With employee consent, the BHD can consult closely with HR, EAP, and HCSO-approved FFDE specialists. Please call 346-286-3150 with questions.

B. Critical Incident Services

1. Related to, or following, a critical incident as described in II.B. above, the Bureau/Division Commander may refer an employee or the employee may proactively request this assistance. If referring the employee, the Bureau/Division Commander (or duly designated representative) must first consult with authorized BHD staff to determine the appropriateness of referral.  This consultation is often accomplished at the scene of an incident (in-person if BHD staff are present, or by phone via the Emergency Dispatch Center (EDC), or during duty hours by calling 346-286-3150. Though encouraged, prior consultation is NOT required in the cases in which the appointment is mandated per CALEA and/or HCSO policy, such as an Officer Involved Shooting (OIS), or for those in select, high-exposure assignments.

2. The Bureau/Division commander must ensure the “Referral for Post-Critical Incident Notice” or “Administrative Leave/Duty Status/Referral for Post-Critical Incident Notice” (in cases in which the employee is placed on Administrative Leave or Duty Status pending the appointment) email is sent and signed as received by the employee, the Bureau/Division commander, the BHD Org Box, and the HCSO Risk Analyst. They can be found on the ‘Common Forms’ page of the HCSO Intranet. The form is NOT required for employees in select proactive assignments, who are scheduled to complete these visits every two (2) years. 

3. The form above is to be emailed to the employee, and signed off by the Bureau/Division commander or his/her duly authorized representative, as soon as is feasible after the employee has been advised of this requirement. Those advising the employee of this requirement verbally should encourage the employee to make the appointment  with BHD even prior to receipt of this letter, if appropriate, e.g., if they are at the scene or otherwise away from the office. In other words, although this documentation is required, the employee need not have it in hand to schedule an appointment and thus best facilitate an expeditious process.     

4. The BHD shall respond to these requests within twenty-four (24) hours—unless it is a weekend or holiday.

5. The appropriate Bureau/Division Commander will receive a notice of the completed counseling session, with written authorization from the employee.

C. Outreach/Prevention/Training.

The BHD Director coordinates outreach efforts with units and personnel, and via media such as email and social networking platforms, and the HCSO Public Affairs Division.

1. Academy and In-Service Training. BHD personnel coordinates with HCSO Academy Staff to teach elective and mandatory courses or portions of a course to classified peace officers, cadets, jailers, and/or professional staff in a variety of subject areas. BHD Staff are proactive with scheduling and curriculum development. Command Staff and Academy Staff are encouraged to reach out to the BHD at 346-286-3150 with requests for training on specific topics or subject matter.

2. Wellness Initiatives, Community Provider Engagement, and Peer Support Training. The BHD Director either coordinates or appoints a Behavioral Health Staff member (e.g, Suicide Prevention Program Manager, Peer Support Mental Health Director) to coordinate the outreach, training, and interventional elements of the above.

D. Crisis & Non-Crisis Consultations

1. Upon approval by the Bureau Commander, supervisors may send a request to the BHD to provide assistance and make recommendations in a crisis or non-crisis situation. During duty hours (0800-1600), staff can be reached at 346-286-3150.  BHD responds on call-out status 24/7, via the EDC.  Updates to the “On-Call” roster of BHD staff is provided to the EDC.

2. The BHD shall respond to non-crisis consultation requests within two (2) working days.

3. The appropriate Bureau or Division Commander will receive written or verbal feedback. 

IV. Records/Confidentiality

BHD records are patient records and are subject to federal and state requirements providing protection against the disclosure of confidential mental health records. Legal Services will receive all subpoenas for review and disposition. [CALEA Standard 22.1.7]

Legal Services will receive all subpoenas for review and disposition.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

August 27, 2021

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