Budget Cuts Put Texas Police In Charge of State’s Mentally Ill

Due to dramatic budget shortfalls, more and more states are cutting aid to the poor, the sick, and the mentally disabled.  But that doesn’t make the problem go away, it simply shifts who is bearing the burden.  And in the case of Texas, the burden is falling to an already overly strapped police force.

Via the Houston Chronicle:

In a state that offers meager funding for mental health, law enforcement officers across Texas have performed the duties of psychologists and social workers — roles they have neither the training nor the manpower to bear.

The Texas Legislature, which has never been generous to mental health clinics, has further withered services under the strain of a strapped state budget, and as a result, police and sheriff’s departments say the number of mental health calls they respond to is snowballing.

And thanks to a new $27 billion budget crisis, it may only get worse.

Initial proposals would cut services provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services by 20 percent, making it more likely for mentally ill Texans to end up in emergency rooms, having mental breakdowns or being thrown behind bars.

Jails are packed with mentally ill Texans who most often haven’t committed a violent crime, but cycle endlessly through the system for minor violations, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Texans with a serious mental illness are eight times more likely to be incarcerated in jails than treated in hospitals, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. A community health care program costs $12 per day to care for a patient, compared to $137 per day to incarcerate them, the group said.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said mentally ill inmates cost the county the most money, with more than a third of the county jail’s 6,000 inmates requiring mental health services. The cost of housing and providing care for these inmates was nearly $19 million in 2010.

Should the police be forced to go beyond being law enforcement, instead playing mental health adviser to the state’s mentally ill?  And as Texas considers even more cuts, such as cuts to the state Medicaid program, one of the last lines of funding for treatment and drugs for many, there’s no doubt that this problem will only grow worse.

Texas isn’t alone in this situation.  Many states are looking to save money cut cutting needed assistance to the mentally ill, who will be denied shelter, assistance or drugs.  Instead of treatment, or assistance to stay on path and live their lives, the cuts will cost the state more in the long run due to overburdened hospitals, jails and law enforcement costs.


photo from wikimedia commons

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jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago


charles thomas
Charles Thomas4 years ago

Police procedure for a call about a mentally ill person who missed his meds and is acting unruly (even if he is an educated professional who wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time).
First surround the individual, mace or taze the individual, hand and foot cuff him and painfully drag him to a vehicle, check him in, strip him, hose down and delouse him, put him into a concrete floored cell with no cot, no clothes, a hole in the floor, and keep the temperature cold, gag if makes noise, leave for days with no doctor, no attorney, no visitors, and get statements while person is rambling to incriminate him, then slam dunk him thru the system. Next.

Paula L.
Paula L.4 years ago

For Howard C. I would like to clarify some information, that he may not be aware of. My daughter contacted the Kerr MHMR and she was told that they were no longer allowed to go to the jail and evaluate prisoners that were already patients of theirs and give them their meds. We are not complaining about Kerr MHMR. Our complaint was with the Kerr Country Jail personell and how they were treating the prisoners that were on meds for mental disorders. My daughter was informed by personell at the jail that the Dr. they had on staff had given orders to them that her daughter did not need the meds. This Dr. was diagnosing her and making medical decisions about her condition and state of mind, and he had not so much as darkend the jail house doors to see and talk to her. It was then we found out meds was also being withheld from other prisoners there. It was Kerr County Jail personell actions and dicisions that spurred our actions to defend the prisoners well being, not a fault of Kerr county MHMR.

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

Presumably, math education in Texas is going the way of science education in much of the country: $137 is less than $12 if they decide it is. After all, *all* facts are whatever the loudest voices say they are.

Walter G.
Walter g.4 years ago

I hope there is a lot of difference in the appearance of the uniforms, otherwise . . .

Howard C.
Howard C.4 years ago

I am a 67 yr old bi-polar client at the Kerr Co MHMR here in Texas. Thank God this county has some money for this. All the staff, from the Dr., to the nurse, to the case workers have been dedicated to us way above and beyond. I don`t know where all the oil, gas, industrial, and ag. money goes, however I know there is enough to provide for these state-wide services. $12/day compared to $137/day in prison, saving BILLIONS. It is obvious that the "fat cat" "good ol boys" are letting out their "Bible belt" a couple of notches, while we have to tighten ours. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," even though they THINK they know.

patti ng
patti ng4 years ago

It almost seems like the insane is already in charge.:(

Terry D.
Terry D.4 years ago

Clearly, the state is kicking the costs down the slope to the counties and cities. That doesn't make sense, either. Why is everyone so afraid of raising a few taxes to pay for these services? When the hell are we actually going to have a few true leaders in this country who will spell out our situation in real terms?

Bernadette P.
Berny p.4 years ago

Money has to come from somewhere and it is very unfair to give the burden to the police, it is not their job and with the best will in the world they cant make miracles!

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y.4 years ago

We are back to the days of Bellevue and Bedlam. Just lock up the mentally ill and throw away the key.

Actually before Reagan cut mental health nationwide, you would hardly ever see a homeless person in the U.S. But you have to be old enough to remember the 60s and 70s to even be aware of that fact.