Dr. Steven B. Schnee, executive director of the Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, offered up an extended metaphor one day recently to illustrate the consequences of what he considers catastrophic cuts in state funding for mental health services. Schnee is a licensed psychologist whose agency assists more than 45,000 county residents annually through a variety of community-based programs.
"It's like saying, we're short money — and we are short money - so we're not going to put oil in our car. Or we're just going to put a little bit of oil in the car," he said, sitting in his fifth-floor office on the Southwest Freeway. "But when the engine blows up and we're spending thousands of dollars on the engine - because now the car doesn't work - we go 'Oh, my goodness! What happened here?' "
A dozen miles to the northeast, in downtown Houston, the man who runs the largest mental health facility in the state was pondering the same possibility. It's the Harris County Jail, where, on any given day, approximately a quarter of the 10,000 or so inmates receive constitutionally required mental health services for their diagnosable psychiatric conditions. Sheriff Adrian Garcia expects the numbers to grow.
"The cuts that we're hearing about are incredible," he said. "It's almost as if these people were invisible, as if there were no awareness of the problem within communities across the state of Texas, and particularly in Harris County."
- Assessing local impacts of proposed mental health cuts
- Few bills proposed at Lege to remedy statewide competency restoration crisis
- Budget cuts would force police officers, jails to care for mentally ill
- Harris County pleads case for mental health, probation/diversion funds in state budget
- Jail deaths implicate state oversight, competency restoration funding
- Mental health cuts by state would shift costs to local jails, emergency rooms
- 'Harris County jail not the place to treat mental illness'
- Competency restoration often best performed on outpatient basis
- The making of an unfunded mandate: Cuts to mental health would dump costs on county jails
- Cuts to state mental hospitals would be massive unfunded mandate for county jails
- Mentally ill languish in Bexar jail awaiting assessment, competency restoration
- Cuts to state mental health treatment would shift costs to local jails
- Cutting state psych hospital budgets could backfire
- Legislature's underspending on competency restoration beds creates havoc
- Priorities: Mentally incompetent inmates languishing in Texas county jails
- 75-year old mentally incompetent grandmother stranded in Lufkin jail most of 2006
- Legislature should prioritize mental health funding that relieves local jails
- Chincy state hospital funding leaves mentally incompetent defendants stranded
- Unfunded mandate: Counties struggle to pay for mentally incompetent defendants' care
- More counties grumbling at backlog of incompetent defendants in county jails
- When I was sick, did you imprison me?