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New mental health unit explains how they're working to protect and serve the San Antonio community

S.M.A.R.T., short for the Specialized Multi-disciplinary Alternate Response Team, is being deployed to help those suffering from mental health crises.

SAN ANTONIO — Damian Daniels, a combat veteran, was experiencing a mental health crisis when he was shot and killed on his porch by Bexar County Sheriff's Office deputies in 2020.

The shooting sparked conversation about how local authorities respond to mental health episodes, and SMART was born from the tragedy.

"SMART Means Specialized Multi-disciplinary Alternate Response Team," said Samantha Gabriel, a clinician.

"We don't see things from one lens," said paramedic Brian Hearn. "We see them through four. And that different perspective things get caught that might not have been caught until it's too late."

"You could get a paramedic and a clinician and deputies," said Gabriel.

"In the mental health unit we wear different uniforms," said deputy Steven Montalbo. "And it's kind of relaxing for them. It calms them down.  It gets our goal accomplished."

"Every call is different and we just have to assess the situation and make is safe for everyone involved," said deputy Ruben Patlan.

"People are depressed and anxious and we try to help them as best we can," Hearn said.

"It's okay to call for help," Gabriel said. "It's okay to need help."   

When asked what the best part of the job is, Hearn's answer was simple.

"The satisfaction when they say thank you for helping me. If you hadn't been here, something bad might have happened," he said.