Behavioral Health

The county jail system is the largest mental health system in the state of Texas. Counties face crushing costs in providing certain constitutional minimum levels of care, including mental health services.

The state should adequately fund community mental health, crisis and transitional services that divert the mentally ill from courts, emergency rooms and jails, and ease the financial burden on local government and taxpayers.

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Key Points

  • Mental health and the criminal justice system are closely interrelated. Substance abuse adds even more complexity to this system.
  • The criminal justice system is among the largest cost drivers in the county budget.
  • Counties must provide certain constitutional minimum levels of care, including mental health care, while a person is incarcerated in a county jail.
  • Counties can provide funds directly to local mental health centers and other assistive community programs when budgets allow.
  • According to the Texas Council of Community Centers, counties have increased support to local mental health agencies in recent years.
  • Local taxing authorities contributed about $476 million to mental health community centers. Of this amount, approximately $371 million (78 percent) came from county government.
  • Funding for local mental health crisis services and mental health rehabilitation must be fully appropriated. Gaps in service must be identified and addressed to relieve the burden on the criminal justice system.
  • Community diversions and other programs are where the most timely, cost-effective, beneficial, preventative and successful mental health services are delivered — and the state must fund them.

Related Articles

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Dallas Morning News, January 8, 2021

To those who have criticized Dallas County DA John Creuzot’s courthouse strategies, you should look more carefully. Innovations within his office’s newly bulked-up mental health division speak to a leader who isn’t soft on crime — but intent on flexing new muscle in the fight.

Next Step Community Solutions expands mental health services for local students

KETK, Sept. 28, 2020

After receiving a $1.1 million in combined grant awards from East Texas Medical Center Foundation and Texas Health and Human Services, Tyler-based nonprofit Next Step Community Solutions will expand their mental health services for local students.

New Galveston County Public Defender’s Office Will Help Address Mental Health Issues

Galveston County The Daily News, Sept. 22, 2020

People with mental health disorders charged with misdemeanor offenses in Galveston County soon will get help from a new office meant to keep them out of jail.

Bexar County Takes Step to Improve Responses to 911 Mental Health Calls, Seeks to Prevent Tragedy

San Antonio News-Express, Sept. 10, 2020

Bexar County emergency dispatchers soon might be sending a trained mental health professional and an EMT crew instead of sheriff’s deputies to 911 calls involving someone showing signs of a break with reality, after commissioners approved a $1.5 million proposal Thursday.

Texas to Award Millions in Grant Money to Organizations that Provide Mental Health Services

King5, Sept. 10, 2020

The North Texas Behavioral Health Authority is receiving more than $1.4 million, the most of any organization in the region.

Mental Health Experts Talk COVID-19

Forth Worth Weekly, April 5, 2020

Millions of Americans are experiencing heightened anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and individuals with mental health conditions are particularly vulnerable under the current shelter-in-place orders. We reached out to two leading local mental healthcare groups, NAMI Tarrant and MHMR of Tarrant County, to see what mental health resources are available during this crisis.