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Joint Statement on killing of Patrick Warren Sr. by Killeen police officer

NAMI Texas and NASW Texas
January 15, 2021

 

 

 

 


For Immediate Release

Contact:
-Greg Hansch, Executive Director, NAMI Texas, 908-229-7082
-Will Francis, Executive Director, NASW Texas, 512-589-9117

On Sunday, January 10th, a Killeen, TX family called 911 and asked for help for their loved one, Patrick Warren Sr., who was experiencing a mental health crisis. The responding police officer, who had received minimal mental health training, arrived on the scene and fatally shot Mr. Warren, an unarmed Black man. While investigations into the incident are ongoing and the police officer has been placed on administrative leave, the Warren family is left processing the death of their loved one with no assurances that justice will be served.

“The killing of Patrick Warren Sr. is a horrific tragedy that could have been prevented,” said Greg Hansch, Executive Director of NAMI Texas. “My heart goes out to the Warren family. Sadly, tragedies like this are all too common. Police shootings of unarmed Black people are three times higher than that of white people. Furthermore, at least a quarter of people who are shot and killed by police were experiencing acute mental illness at the time of their death. We urge swift action by local and state authorities, including the Texas Legislature.”

Will Francis Executive Director of NASW Texas shared: “Patrick Warren Sr. joins the heart breaking list of Black men and women killed in avoidable encounters with the police.  A mental health check on a member of our Texas community should not end in their death at the hands of law enforcement.  This only highlights the need for alternative responses that do not involve law enforcement.  Texas leaders must support mental health interventions that involve social workers, peer specialists and other trained professionals.  We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Mr. Warren, and demand that his shooting be investigated immediately.”

It is clear: a police officer with minimal mental health training is a suboptimal respondent to mental health crises. Sending highly-trained, highly-skilled healthcare professionals to the scene of a non-violent mental health emergency reduces risk of harm to the individual, increases linkages to treatment and services, and preserves limited law enforcement resources for other responsibilities.

We recommend the following:

  • Passing HB 1050, a bill currently under consideration in the Texas Legislature. The bill would require a study on employing mental health professionals or mental health response teams to assist when responding to behavioral health-related emergency calls.
  • Passing other legislation that would a.) protect Black Texans and Texans with mental health conditions from police use of force, and b.) provide accountability when force is used.
  • Training 911 dispatch operators to recognize calls with behavioral health components and route calls to the available, appropriate, and timely mental health crisis response.
  • Establishing 24/7 crisis call center “hubs” to which mental health calls can be routed when an individual calls the new 9-8-8 universal number for mental health crises that will become operational by July 2022.
  • Expanding the statewide availability of Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams, which are staffed by mental health professionals trained to respond to non-violent mental emergencies.
  • Utilizing co-responder models to provide a multi-pronged approach to mental health crisis response, with co-responder teams including trained professionals like Social Workers, Counselors, Paramedics, Peer Support Specialists, and, in the case of crises that include a risk of violence, Mental Health Officers.
  • Establishing more Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) at law enforcement agencies to increase pre-booking diversion from jails to psychiatric facilities. CIT may also reduce use of force.

We’ve seen far too many deeply disturbing incidents involving fatal use of force by police against Black Americans, some of whom were experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of their death. Calls for justice and accountability demand action to prevent future tragedies. Black Lives Matter. Mental illness is not a crime. Racism is a public health crisis. Lack of access to appropriate mental health crisis response is a public health crisis. Without aggressive action by state and local authorities, Black Texans and Texans with mental health conditions will continue to experience disproportionate violence at the hands of police.

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NAMI Texas, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by volunteers in 1984, is part of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by volunteers in 1984. NAMI Texas has 27 local affiliates throughout Texas and nearly 2,000 members made up of individuals living with mental illness, family members, friends, and professionals. Its purpose is to help improve the lives of people affected by mental illness through education, support, and advocacy.

Founded in 1955 the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest organization of professional social workers in the world, with over 155,000 members in 55 chapters. The Texas Chapter, with 6,000 members, is the major professional social work organization in the state. NASW is committed to advancing professional social work practice and the profession; and to promoting human rights, social and economic justice, and unimpeded access to services for everyone. Its members work in a broad range of settings including hospitals and other health care settings, community agencies, government, academia, business, nursing homes, schools, and private practice.

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