Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The making of an unfunded mandate: Cuts to mental health would dump costs on county jails

Around the state, reporters and local officials are waking up to a sleeper issue that this blog has been sounding the alarm about for years: The danger posed to county budgets, especially local jails, by cuts in the number of state mental hospital beds and mental health care generally - an issue likely to reach a critical stage if state hospitals are cut further next spring by the 82nd Texas Legislature. A TV station in El Paso is the latest to pick up this meme; reports KFOX-TV:
"Legislatively, the movement for treating mentally ill people is going from the state and it's going to local governments," [El Paso County Sheriff's Lt. Michaela] Hebeker told KFOX 14.

Funding of mental health programs could turn into a monumental shift come January and the 82nd Texas Legislative session.

"We know that cuts are inevitable, but we want to make sure the cuts aren't made just for the sake of cuts that end up cost-shifting huge amounts to local communities, local tax payers," said Gary Larcenaire, CEO of El Paso Mental Health Mental Retardation.

Larcenaire said he's putting together a strong case for state legislators to keep the mental health funding that he said is so critical to El Paso.

He said if funding is cut for the local state hospital, for MHMR or other local entities, then mental health inmates will stay in the jail longer, and more mental health patients will end up in the UMC emergency room.
See prior, related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

Wishful thinking by the sheriff..Reality is the poor and mentally ill will be the first cuts made..Texas only spends $36 per capita on mental health, national average is around $100..How much worse can it get?

Jefe said...

You are so prescient on this issue. Harris County has the largest mental health facility in the state - its jail. It is a good facility, but it is still a jail, and the least cost effective way to provide mental health services.

Anonymous said...

This article writes about the issues being seen and spoken of in Texas. This is happening nation wide, perhaps Texas will take the lead to wake up this nation. If someone has cancer, they are not turned out on the street. One of these days mental illness will be seen as an illness that is treatable instead of shoved under the table and ignored. Many suffer from this illness and the families also suffer, now the criminal justice system is suffering

Anonymous said...

How can anyone believe that the state gives a shit about a county's operating budget? Thats the main problem, the state shifts burdens onto the counties and cities. Take the sex offender database, a state mandate, but operated by city police departments with no reimbursement from the state. Get real people, the only thing changing in the cj/mh field is it's getting worse..