New mental health crisis center in Austin

A new, emergency psychiatric care facility ten years in the making is set to open in East Austin. On Monday FOX 7 got a look inside.

Travis County Judge Guy Herman led the ribbon cutting on a facility that bears his name.

"Let's open the door to mental health services,” said Herman.

Herman's court is responsible for handling involuntary mental health commitments. He has long fought for a center like this one for those who are in an immediate state of crisis.

"More often than not we can get them calmed down, we can get them on medication, we can get them into outpatient services and we won't have to go to that step from an inpatient facility,” said Herman.

"Prior to this, the only alternative that EMS had or the sheriff's or police department is they either took them to jail or they took them to the acute hospital emergency rooms. Neither of those places is equipped to deal with people in mental health crisis. But for years that is what we have done,” said St. David’s Foundation CEO Earl Maxwell.

At the Herman Center for Mental Health Crisis Care patients will be brought in by referrals from law enforcement or other integral care partners. There are 16 individual rooms.

The atmosphere is much different than an ER. The building has a therapeutic feel with natural lighting, a reading area, outdoor seating and an open nurses’ station.

One agency that stands to benefit is the Austin Police Department.

"We're getting people diverted the right way that they need to go.  This is almost a residential-type of environment where they feel better and we're not taking them to jail,” said Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon.

"People with mental illness aren't criminals. They just have an illness,” said Herman.

Even before the Herman Center's opening date of July 31st, the judge is looking to the future campaigning for a site in the northern part of the city.

"We're making progress and I'm very pleased that we're pushing. I'm going to keep pushing as long as I'm still in office. When I get out I'll still speak my two cents to what I think the problems are,” said Herman.

The Herman Center is not a walk-in care facility. Patients are seen through referral only.
If you are in need of immediate crisis support call 512-472-HELP.

To learn more about the Herman Center, click here: