Monday, May 02, 2016

Shortage of competency restoration beds a sudden, longstanding crisis

Texas' failure to finance mental-health services to sufficiently supply the vast volumes demanded by the justice system - in particular "forensic" beds for competency restoration at state mental hospitals - belatedly is receiving attention. Edgar Walters at the Texas Tribune has a fine story detailing the quandary state officials find themselves in regarding funding for criminal defendants' competency restoration at state mental hospitals. Here's an excerpt, which will ring familiar to long-time Grits readers:
State public health officials say there were 388 people on waiting lists for state hospitals as of April 1.

“Almost all of our state hospitals are currently at capacity, and we are admitting patients as soon as other patients are discharged,” said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services.

Meanwhile, more than half of state hospital beds go to people who have been ordered there under a “forensic” commitment through the criminal justice system. Texans who were found by a court to be not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity or who were considered incompetent to stand trial currently fill about 1,200 state hospital beds.

That leaves only about 1,100 beds available at any given time for people, like Contreras’ son, who seek treatment outside of the criminal justice system.
At the Houston Press Meagan Flynn had another recent story on the topic.

Grits is pleased the issue is receiving attention and that legislators have pledged to address the problem (though in the coming budget environment, one wonders whether that's possible). I'm puzzled, however, at commentary portraying this as some new problem that legislators just discovered. My theory is that Sen. Robert Duncan attempted to manage the situation for years and, when he left, the Lege lost important institutional memory on the topic.

Regardless, long waiting lists for forensic commitments to state mental hospitals have been a problem for years, as highlighted in this 2012 story from Eric Dexheimer at the Austin Statesman. And though I know that meager blogs seem to be falling out of fashion in the era of social media, this humble opuscule has been beating the drums on the topic nearly since its inception. For those interested, here's a sampling of Grits' writing on competency restoration topics over the last decade:


Anonymous said...

With leftist in control as in Texas this happens.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The state legislature is controlled 2-1 by Republicans, who also occupy all statewide offices. WTF are you talking about?

He's Innocent said...

Here Here Grits!

Indeed, where are these leftists? Some here in Travis county, but they are not a fully upstanding progressive bunch either if you are thinking waaaaaaaayyyyyyy left.

And do not doubt the effectiveness of your blog! Those of us who have family in the criminal justice system, or have been, count on you for good, well researched information. I tell everyone I know who has an interest in criminal justice issues about your blog and dismiss the ones too foolish not bother reading it. I contribute monthly on Paypal to keep you going. It's by far the most satisfying fund I put out each month!

What is the IP's loss, is this devoted readers gain.

Thanks for all you do.

Mark M. said...

Rule 1: don't feed the trolls.

Beth said...

The blame should be placed on the 3rd Court of Appeals who did not have the courage to uphold Judge Naranjo's decision. If they had, many people would not have, or continue to be, suffering from extended wait times in jails that can not provide proper care.