A trip to a Family Dollar turns violent

A woman is charged with injury to a child after police say she slapped an eight-year-old girl at a Family Dollar store in South Austin.

This isn't the suspect's first run-in with the law.

"Certainly there can be progression in mental health issues and if something goes unaddressed for a long period of time, signs and symptoms and behaviors can change. Aggression isn't typically associated with mental health issues or with mental illness. Generally, people with mental illness are not violent," says Ellen Richards, chief strategy officer, Austin Travis County Integral Care.

It was on October 13th when a woman was shopping with her eight-year-old daughter at the Family Dollar on East Oltorf.

As they walk to the checkout line, police say a Black female suspect hit the woman with her shoulder.
The suspect then got out of line and headed toward the door. Court documents say that's when she slapped a little girl in the face with such force, that she almost fell over.
"I think if you're in a situation with anyone that you're concerned about, the best thing to do is to contact 911," says Richards.

How do we prevent situations like this from happening again? The woman who was arrested has had a prior criminal history.

According to the police report, in August she assaulted two people who were waiting at a bus stop off Pleasant Valley.

In December 2014, officers say she assaulted a woman holding her four-year-old child while walking down the street.
"The criminal justice system, or jail, is really not the proper place for someone in that situation. So what we really would like to do, is divert someone from the criminal justice system. Another resource that we have is a mobile crisis outreach team that often responds with law enforcement in appropriate situations. That way we can get a licensed clinician on-site immediately to help assess someone and begin stabilization," says Richards.

The longer someone goes without treatment, the more likely a situation is to escalate.

Over the last few legislative sessions, we've seen significant increases in mental health funding for local communities.

"Mental health issues and substance-use disorders do co-occur and are not uncommon. So again, having the kinds of resources that can treat both of the issues at the same time. That requires specialized training, specialized services and making sure that our community has sufficient resources like that, is really important," says Richards.

If you would like to access help for someone experiencing a mental health crisis, call The 24-hour helpline: 512-472-HELP or go to www.integralcare.org.

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