Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Harris County candidate forum focused on mental health and criminal justice

A reader points out this Houston Chronicle story describing "a forum on behavioral health and the criminal justice system" in which "Republican and Democratic candidates for county judge, sheriff and district attorney offered ideas meant to divert the mentally ill from jail to treatment."

Read the whole article for the various candidates' views. For my part, I'm amazed and pleased that there was even a forum on this topic, much less that so many candidates attended. That says a lot, I think, about the zeitgeist of the times, and also the budgetary impact of treating mental illness through the justice system: "Harris County spends an estimated $87 million a year to incarcerate and treat mentally ill inmates," reported the Chronicle.

Nearly every community in Texas faces similar local debates. Statewide, 30% of Texas prison inmates are past clients of the indigent mental health system. Indeed, lately I've begun to wonder if lack of health insurance and minimalist mental health coverage for those who are insured might be a significant contributing factor to criminality among the menally ill, just like failure to invest in eduction harms public safety. To the extent mental illness contributes to crime, and it does, expanding access to services before people offend would reduce both monetary and societal costs, as would diverting so-called "frequent flyers" into more stable, supportive environs.

I'm glad to see candidates being called to account on these topics and hope the forum's organizers will continue to remind the victors of their promises once the November elections are done.


Paul B. Kennedy said...

I'm happy that both Bradford and Lykos are able to think outside the box when it comes to fighting the source of crime. Of course, the question remains whether any elected official will be willing to commit any dollars to any of their ideas.

Check out "The Defense Rests" at

Anonymous said...

WHAT forum!??
No media coverage from the TV news in greater Houston!
Was this a debate? a blog battle?

Anonymous said...

Same here haven't heard a thing about it and minimal coverage will not work unless we get the insurance carriers, pharmacy company and health care workers to care also.