Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Montgomery County spending juvie diversion funds on mental health

I haven't heard much so far about how local juvenile probation departments are spending diversion money given them last spring by the Legislature to help keep kids out of the Texas Youth Commission, but here's a story out of Montgomery County ("New mental health program aimed at helping juveniles," Conroe Courier, Nov. 2) describing how they're spending the new money on unmet mental health needs:
With around 40 percent of juvenile offenders in Montgomery County on some sort of psychotropic medication – such as antidepressants – officials believe a new mental health diversion program will get those young offenders the help they need.

Montgomery County’s Juvenile Probation Department, in collaboration with Tri-County Mental Health Mental Retardation, has started a program to ensure juvenile offenders with mental health issues get treatment and counseling, instead of detaining them, Director Ron Leach said.

The program started Oct. 1.

“We’re taking the services to them at home,” Leach said. “The goal is to get them out of detention and into services immediately.”

The county funded about $50,000 for the program, and the department also received $50,000 from the state to staff a second care manager, Leach said. The program is capped at 15.

Nationally, about 70 percent of juvenile offenders suffer from mental health disorders, with 25 percent experiencing disorders so severe that their ability to function is significantly impaired, according to a 2006 study from the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice.

“On any given day,” Leach said, “about 40 percent (of the county’s juvenile offenders) are on psychotropic medication. Not all are severe mental health cases. Many are here for family violence.”

Some of the youths with mental health issues are as young as 10, Leach said.
The comment section to that story included some interesting discussion on whether medicating youth can really help solve crime or whether youth in the juvenile justice system are overmedicated. I don't have strong or well-informed opinions on the topic, but it's worth raising the question.

Still, this seems like a worthwhile use of new diversion funds, focusing on a subpopulation for whom resources are perennially scarce and who TYC is particularly ill-equipped to manage. I'm interested in hearing how other communities are spending their new juvie diversion money.


Anonymous said...

Those statistics are are way overinflated. With ever diagnosis of a mental health problem comes a paycheck. You want to know the symptoms of a mental health disorder, google them! I see this first hand on a regular basis and its one of the biggest scams going.

Not to say that there are not juveniles with serious mental health disorders,however, the numbers are just way over exagerated.

Whitsfoe said...

@ 5:48 p.m. with all respect....

Your wrong. If you need a case and point example, go look at what happened to that teacher in Tyler. It's all over the news now. Former TYC youth murdered his teacher. The kid was discharged from TYC because his mental illness prevented him from being able to work his correctional treatment program. H.B. 1550 discharge. Now they want to certify him as an adult. There are many more like him with us and TYC is simply ill equipped to deal with this problem.

Glad to see Montgomery is utilizing those funds in that manner. Other counties should follow suit.

Anonymous said...

You missed the entire point of my post! I didn't say mental health problems don't exist. I said the statisatics are inflated.

You take an isolated incident and use that to claim I am wrong!

However, you bring up an entirely different point. So TYC discharges a kid because his mental health problems prevent him from benefitting from treatment? Another example of a flawed system. TYC can't fix them so we release them to the public?? Unbelievable!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Leach is a brilliant man. Wonder what he's doing with the other hundreds of thousands?

Whitsfoe said...


That's not an "isolated incident." It just one that made the news.

"So TYC discharges a kid because his mental health problems prevent him from benefiting from treatment? Another example of a flawed system."

Children who are psychotic don't belong in a penal/correctional institution. They need to be helped by professionals that understand and are experienced in those disorders.

TYC's purpose is to address the criminal behavior of a predator that is capable of distinguishing right from wrong, and turning his or her life around. Children who suffer from psychotic-type disorders and commit crimes while in that condition have a need that we cannot address given (1) we are remote and cannot recruit professionals in these remote areas, and (2) it's not our purpose. MHMR back in the mid 80's used to have these emergency clinics for these kids, but for whatever reason (I was in college back then), they stopped funding these establishments and now kids who had those needs were sent to TYC if their committing county had no resources to address the problem (I was a Dallas County MHMR Crisis Intake Counselor when this happened).

TYC became the only option for many counties because Texas does a very poor job of identifying people in need of mental health treatment as opposed to incarceration. Treatment inside of a Correctional facility in Texas makes as much sense as why "abbreviation" is such a long word. - Peace

editor said...

Whitsfoe, I second your sentiment.

Just to add, I believe only 4 counties accepted the funding to date. Most claim it is not enough to bother with.

By the way, what a tragedy in Tyler, Whitsfoe! And it keeps getting worse. With all the evidence that the young man has mental retardation, schizophrenia, and history of psych hospitalization, Judge Floyd Getz ruled him fit to proceed without an evaluation based upon two lines from a 6 month old discharge report from Terrell State Hospital. The 2 lines? "He's currently clear, oriented and goal oriented" and "can be manipulative." Wake up, Judge - he got a psych discharge from TYC! Give this young man an eval!
- Stir Crazy

Whitsfoe said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

TB-positive inmate says he picked it up in jail By Celinda Emison Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One of 11 inmates who tested positive for tuberculosis in September at the Taylor County Jail has claimed he was exposed to the disease while in jail and that jailers refused to retest him for it when he asked.

Venson Townshend, 42, said he believes another inmate exposed him to the disease in April.

Sheriff Les Bruce declined to say whether other inmates or former inmates have been contacted about the positive TB tests.

Townshend said he tested negative when he was arrested, but that when he was placed in a “pod,” which houses about a dozen inmates, one of them was coughing severely. The man was taken out, diagnosed and returned to jail wearing a surgical mask before being moved elsewhere, Townshend said. Townshend, who filed a grievance with the jail, was one of about 15 inmates retested in September.
“I wrote the nurse and asked ... to be retested in April,” Townshend said. “But they denied my request.” Townshend said most of the inmates in the pod were released before his test came back positive. Anyone housed at the jail who hasn’t been tested in the past year is required to have a TB test. Bruce said 230 inmates were tested in September and all 11 of the inmates who tested positive were given chest X-rays. “None of the chest X-rays were positive,” Bruce said. Those who test positive on the skin test have the option of taking treatment, said Clarice Garrison, RN of the Abilene-Taylor County Health Department. If an inmate tests positive, then lung X-rays are taken and the treatment begins if the inmate chooses to take the treatment. “It is not a choice if you have active disease,” Garrison said. “But it is a choice if you have the latent form of TB.” The Taylor County Health Department administers TB tests to new inmates at the jail weekly, Garrison said. While she wouldn’t speak specifically about any positive cases, Garrison said there were “less than five active cases of TB in Taylor County.” The number of tests administered varies from week to week. It is a policy that inmates and jail staff are tested routinely. “It can be as few as 30 and as many as 90,” Garrison said.Many people who test positive never contract the active version of the disease, Garrison said. She said people susceptible to respiratory infections or immune system deficiencies and young children are the most at-risk to contract TB. “If you have a good immune system, you will be protected from tuberculosis,” Garrison said. Townshend, who was in jail from January until Oct. 15 on a domestic violence charge, said he has been undergoing treatment since he was diagnosed. He must take pills, which are paid for by the state, for the next six to nine months. He isn’t contagious. On Tuesday, Lance Hunter Voorhees, a former jail chaplain, filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
“Not only Taylor County inmates have been put at risk, but our community has also been put at risk being that former inmates who have been exposed to TB have been released into our population,” Voorhees said.


Anonymous said...

Prisons and correctional institutions became a "dumping ground" for those WITHOUT money and WITH mental health problems (I would guess, based on your post, while you were in college).
Treatment during incarceration translates to "medication" in most instances.
Treatment teams have the same problem as parole and probation officers concerning caseloads; they are so high treatment is minimal. Probation officers are told the priority is to insure the fees are being paid. The treatment teams' priority (set by management) is to insure the Doctor "re-news" the patients' "script". It is a sad state of affairs and I do not see any changes due to lack of funding.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

When it comes to mental health rulings, this has been a shameful year for the Texas judiciary. The Aaron Hart case out of Paris (mentally retarded teenager who cannot distinguish right from wrong, given a 100 year sentence); the CCA gutting the competency statute in its Montoya decision this summer; Judge Getz apparently ignorant of the fact that competency -especially among those with psychotic disorders - can fluctuate constantly; and Perry appointee "Justice" Marialyn Barnard's legally illiterate decision in the Ramiro Ramos case out of Bexar County in early October. Would Gov. Goodhair's appointee please just read the current statute and stop citing cases that are way out of date? The guy was hallucinating and schizophrenic and counsel expressed concern about his competency - that was all that was needed for the trial court to take action.

Time for some funding for the judiciary to be sent to "Basic Precepts of Mental Health and Mental Retardation" training ...?

Anonymous said...

You can shrink their heads and pump them up with drugs - but putting criminals who lack impulse control back into society until they snap is WRONG. Band-aiding the problem won't make it go away. The problem is that many people are so damaged that they cannot EVER re-enter society - without society paying a price.

Anonymous said...

discussion regarding TYC releasing kids back to their home communities because they won't work the program or are too disruptive (in TYC faclities) is the norm now.

$100,000 for 15 kids sounds pretty expensive to me but maybe this program is super intensive. The other problem is that we do have an MHMR system in Texas ... too bad we now have to give money over to juvenile probation to fix something that isn't exactly their responsibility.

Anonymous said...

ofcourse, juvenile probation departments are already in the education business with Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs that are required in counties with a certain population. What's one more responsibility with Mental Health?