County Leaders Say Mental Health Cuts Will Cost More

According to many people who work and deal with the mentally ill, budget cuts to mental health services being proposed by the Texas State Legislature will cost the state more money in the long run. They’re asking the public to call their legislator to voice their concerns. Bill Stamps has more.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Mental Health director Steven Schnee and host of others joined together to make a bold unified statement: Cuts to mental health services are the wrong move.

Schnee says less time with counselors will mean more time in jail. “What we have seen is increasingly a criminalization of people with mental illness, such that today the Harris County Jail is now the largest psychiatric facility, serving more psychiatric conditions everyday than the entire state hospital system of the state of Texas.”

When people with psychiatric disorders don’t get the help they need, they’re more likely to commit crimes, sometimes it’s as innocent as trespassing. But county leaders say it costs time and money to arrest the patients, feed and house them in jail and also defend or prosecute them in court. This is Sheriff Garcia and Judge Emmett.

“The reality is that for every dollar that the folks up in Austin think they may be saving, they’re costing the local community 15 dollars and we need to make sure they understand the unintended consequences of those respective actions.”

“You’ve got a lot of people who were elected on a very conservative platform and what they have got to understand, forget right or wrong, this is the most conservative thing to spend money on. We spend money on mental health and we save money on criminal justice.”

The Texas House of Representatives is proposing a 20 percent cut to mental health. County leaders are asking the public to pick up the phone and call their local legislator to let them know that, although tough budget decisions have to be made, cutting mental health services is not the right one.

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