Mental Health Cuts Pose Problems for County Jail

The budget woes are affecting departments across the state. On Monday we told you what kind of impact the shortfall will have on Wichita Falls ISD. Now we're telling you what it means for mental health services.

A new report developed by the Health Management Associates illustrates what kind of problems county jails may face.

Many mental health patients will not be able to get the help they need if cuts to community based mental health services and state hospitals happen. That leads to potential problems in crime and in the jails.

The Wichita County Jail only has enough room for 600 inmates, right now they're already near capacity and the thought of locking up even more puts Sheriff David Duke on edge.

"That will add to our jail population which we don't have enough room for what we have now. That is going to be an impact on Wichita County," said Sheriff Duke.

The report says that the cost to jail an inmate per day is $45, but for someone who needs special treatment and medication that can rise to $137.

"Our taxes are going to be driven up because the state is failing to take care of their responsibility. They're not cutting costs they're just passing down who pays for it," said Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom.

Legislators are looking at cutting 4 percent from state hospital funds worth $32 million and community based services will stand to lose 20 percent of their funding in certain areas. That impacts the North Texas State Hospital and the Helen Farabee Center, which means treatment access for mental health patients will be far and few.

"If they're left there without being properly taken care of they will eventually get in trouble and be back in our county jails," said Gossom.

Wichita County sends inmates to other counties when there's not enough room so the ripple effect will continue.

"It is a burden back on us to be able to do transports back and forth and logistics to get these people to and fro and you have medical issues, court dates," said Duke.

Many other departments will be hit besides jails, because as the report states people with mental illnesses find their way to other settings, like hospitals and emergency rooms.

Christine Mann with The Department of State Health Services says it is too early to know if all state hospitals will be affected, but they are predicting a loss of 130 beds state wide.

Both Duke and Gossom urge residents to call your local representative. If you're not sure who it is we have a link for you here.

Below is at statement from Senator Craig Estes':

"Mental health services are essential to the well being of our community.  I believe that all persons should have access to the essential services that they need.  As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I am working with my colleagues on staying true to the Governor's request to seek cuts that minimize impact on direct services. I think it would be a mistake to cut MHMR services that directly impact our neediest population, because the impact of those cuts could be detrimental and have negative consequences to our local communities (impacting county jail populations, county or city medical services that would be forced to service these populations).  I understand that we must all make sacrifices to keep our state budget balanced, but we must do it in the most compassionate way possible."