New program to divert people with mental health issues from jail to rehab

Posted at 5:20 PM, Apr 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-05 18:20:10-04

When a person is brought to the Nueces County Jail, they are photographed, fingerprinted and assigned a cell, but soon there will be another alternative.

For some inmates with mental health issues, locking them up may just make a bad situation worse. A new county program that is about to kick off hopes to keep these people out of jail and free their minds from mental health problems.

"A lot of times those folks don’t need to be in jail, they need to be in a facility or they need to be in an area that can take care of their mental health issues," Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney, Precinct 4, said.

Now that will be a reality, thanks to Nueces County’s new jail diversion program. 

"It will give the police officers some other options when they arrest people. The police officers will arrest, and then they’ll have an assessment done by a mental health professional," Commissioner Chesney said. 

That assessment will determine if the person should go to jail, or instead to a facility for detox or a residential treatment program.  

Twenty beds will eventually be available at the Behavioral Health Center’s respite center and Charlie’s Place. Other facilities could also get on board. 

One Pastor who helps some people through their mental health and substance abuse struggles thinks it will be a huge resource for the Coastal Bend community. 

"Send those people to professional people who deal with that stuff every day. Anything that will rehabilitate people to change their behavior, attitude, to make them better is absolutely wonderful," Pastor Adam Carrington of Brooks AME Worship Center said. 

The program was recently approved by the Nueces County Commissioners Court, and it will be overseen by the Nueces County Behavioral Health Center.
The Health Center is now hiring staff to run the program, and they hope to get it started by this fall. 

Funding is coming from the Hospital District, which has agreed to kick off the program with $2 million. 

"There will be we think some real savings in economic side of it to Nueces County, because there jails are not as full to people who shouldn’t be there, as well as a very much of a health benefit for people," Commissioner Chesney said. 

What happens after the initial $2 million runs out? The Hospital District told County Commissioners they believe they have enough funds to keep the program going even then.

For the long term, the county also plans to seek additional state and grant money.