Friday, March 08, 2013

Bill filed to depopulate Harris County Jail mental health wing through pilot program

I'm really glad to see state Sen. Joan Huffman this week filed SB 1185 which, according to a Houston radio station:
creates a pilot program to reduce recidivism of individuals with serious mental illness in the Harris County Jail, which she says is regarded as the state’s largest mental health facility. On any given day, 25 percent of the inmates receive psychotropic medication. Hundreds of inmates with mental problems cycled in and out of Harris County jail five or more times from 2011 to 2012 according to Huffman and confirmed to News 92 FM by Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a Democrat.

“Keeping non-violent people with mental health issues out of our jails is the fiscally and socially responsible thing to do,” said Huffman. “It costs $137 per day to keep someone behind bars as opposed to $12 per day for community mental health services.  The majority of these individuals in the Harris County Jail never received the services they needed – services that probably would have kept them out of jail in the first place.”

The multi-year pilot program is designed to substantially reduce recidivism by incorporating a comprehensive array of clinical and social support services – easy access to mental health care, chemical dependence services, rehabilitation, and residential housing opportunities.  A major benefit of the program is that it takes advantage of Harris County best practices and piggybacks onto existing resources such as crisis intervention and response teams, along with jail-based mental health services.

“As a former prosecutor and judge, I’ve witnessed many stories of heartache involving families with mentally ill loved ones,” Huffman said. “It’s time we erased the stigma of mental illness. It is a medical problem that can be treated by proper care and medicine.”
The legislation is "contingent on the continuing agreement of the Commissioners Court of Harris County to contribute $32,650,000 to the funding of the program each year in which the program operates," according to the filed version of the bill. The pilot program would expire after four years, prior to which the Department of State Health Services must issue a report on the results.

Notably, the Senate Finance Committee boosted mental health funding by $200 million, reported the Statesman's Mike Ward, restoring cuts from last session. Ward mentioned that the Finance committee approved "more money" for the Harris County pilot, but I can't tell if that's in addition to the $200 million or if they're talking about the money put up by the commissioners court.

MORE: From Paul Kennedy. AND MORE: From YNN-Houston.


Anonymous said...

So rural counties will just continue to take a dicking on this?

“Keeping non-violent people with mental health issues out of our jails is the fiscally and socially responsible thing to do,” said Huffman.

Really? So violent people with mental health issues are supposed to sit in jail for months at a time without a trial, without their court attorney appointed attorney routinely visiting them all the while they urinate and deficate all over themselves.

This frick'n court appointed BS for attorneys who don't come to the jail but collect their fees and district judges who overlook it smacks of judicial misconduct.

The taxpayers are getting ripped!

BiPolarUSA said...

Amen! I couldn't have said it better. We don't have less or more money. We have a broken, ignorant system that thinks the more money you put into the hands of service providers the better get. I can promise you, speaking from personal research and life experiences this does not work.

Death Breath said...

"So rural counties will just continue to take a dicking on this?" What an interesting choice of words. It surely sounds like someone has done some time or wants to sample the meat inside.

Whine, whine, whine. If you close prisons, those who profit from incarceration start to whine. Some whine because the prison closing creates over-populated county jails.

Texans are a rather stupid bunch, really. When they think they've saved taxes by closing prison, guess what happens? They end up paying at the county level.

Face it folks, you wanted a safe utopian environment in the free world. Suck it up, buttercup.

Anonymous said...

^ Hey dumb ass above, Harris County ain't the only county in Texas having to house mental health patients. The funding should be spread out.

And these court appointed BS lawyers who don't show up in county jails to advocate for these inmates need some scrutinizing.

Do you understand Bait Breath?