2017 Spirit of Health Recipient

More than 100,000 people have been diverted away from jail or emergency rooms thanks to the work of the San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Detail and its Crisis Intervention Training program. The program has reduced the need to use force and instead has helped to connect people with the mental health services they need.

In the last year alone the team has grown from six members to 10 and along with the police department’s training program are now models garnering national attention.

For their innovative work in helping San Antonio residents get mental health help, SAPD’s Mental Health Detail is the 2017 Baptist Health Foundation’s Spirit of Health award recipient.

“What we’re trying to do is recognize individuals and groups that really exemplify compassion, dedication and the spirit in which we as a foundation help those in greatest need,” said Eusebio Diaz, Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio Vice President.

The mental health detail is made up of officers who are specially trained to recognize and handle mental health calls, said San Antonio police Sgt. Bart Vasquez. The department provides 40 hours of crisis management training.

“The 10 individuals, the 10 officers, are truly deserving of this award,” Vasquez said. “These 10 officers are some of the most caring officers I have met in my time with the police department, when it comes to individual mental illness.”

Vasquez said the unit takes its work home with them. “At night, they are taking calls when they’re off. They’re advising families with where to take their loved ones and where to get help and treatment. These 10 officers truly are the best of the department.”

Each year BHFSA honors a person or organization that has contributed to improving community health. SAPD’s Mental Health Detail exemplifies that spirit and has helped thousands of people in the San Antonio community. 

Baptist Health Foundation President and CEO Cody Knowlton said the work of the foundation is driven by the needs of the nonprofit community. “We do it all to honor God,” Knowlton said. “It’s God’s mission and His money.”

This year’s event was held on Tuesday, December 12th, 4:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church of San Antonio.

Previous recipients of the Spirit of Health Award include Centromed Founder Dr. Ernesto Gomez, Lindsey Painter, a teacher in New Braunfels who donated a kidney to one of her students; Fernando Guerra, MD, former Director of Health for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District; George Gaston, MD, retired Vice President of Mission and Ministry for Baptist Health System; and Jim Potyka, MD, a former Baptist Health System Emergency Department Physician.

(L-R: Asst. Chief Anthony Trevino, SAPD Mental Health Detail and Cody Knowlton, BHFSA President and CEO)