First, in Lubbock officials received a $400,000 grant to create a public defender for the mentally ill, but with a twist - legal services will be provided by a nonprofit instead of a county office. This isn't an entirely new delivery model in Texas. In Del Rio, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid staffs a multi-county PD office for all offenders, not just the mentally ill.
In addition, SCIT brings some hometown news from Smith County: "On Monday, July 28 at the meeting of the Smith County Commissioners, there will be a presentation regarding possible Mental Health Court being established in Smith County." Writes Stir Crazy
When approximately 20% of Smith County jail inmates have been treated for mental illness in the past, the potential impact of such an intervention program is substantial not only in terms of dollars saved but also in terms of quality of life for individuals, family members, and other citizens who could be affected by subsequent crimes.Meanwhile, checking in over at Prevention not Punishment, another Texas blog focused on mental health and corrections policy, I noticed this story from the June 2008 issue of Law Enforcement Technology about police Crisis Intervention Teams aimed at the mentally ill and state of the art practices pioneered at the Memphis (TN) Police Department:
Dr. David Self, chief forensic psychiatrist at Rusk State Hospital, and Ms. Valerie Holcomb, Texas Corrections Office on Medically and Mentally Ill specialist at Andrews Center, will make a presentation to the Commissioners sometime early in the meeting which begins at 9 a.m. (July 28) at the courthouse annex (NE corner from courthouse--where early voting occurs).
The program builds a team of officers available to respond to calls that partner with families, mental health providers and individuals who are diagnosed with mental diseases. The Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, preserves the individual's dignity, insures greater safety for both responding officers and the mentally ill person — called consumers — and reassures families.It strikes me that some version of the Crisis Intervention Team concept should be developed by probation departments to provide more pro-active, need-specific supervision for mentally ill people they're supervising. It'd be nice to intervene in some of these crises before somebody gets arrested and locked up instead of only after they've committed a crime or hurt somebody.