Staff at the Center for Life Resources don’t want people who are in a mental health crisis to end up in jail.
Neither does Sheriff Vance Hill.
A two-year grant from the Texas Health and Human Services to fund two mental health deputies for the Brown County Sheriff’s Office is expected to help fulfill that goal.
The $222,389 grant is part of $10 million the Texas Legislature put in House Bill 13, Hill and Center for Life Resources CEO Dion White said. The state recently approved the grant for the sheriff’s office, and Hill said he expects to have two new deputies hired for the positions by mid-April.
The mental health deputies, who will be stationed in a Center for Life Resources facility, will be available to assist all law enforcement agencies in the county, Hill said.
The deputies will accompany Center for Life Resources caseworkers on crisis intervention calls involving mental health and will be part of a Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, White said.
They will be present for the caseworkers’ protection, and they will alleviate patrol officers from having to sit with the person in the emergency room, sometimes for an entire shift, awaiting placement in a mental health facility, Hill said.
If the person has committed minor misdemeanor offenses, charges can be delayed or not filed at all, keeping the person out of jail until mental health services have been rendered, the sheriff said.
“They’ll be working hand in hand with Center for Life Resources,” Hill said. “Our main goal is to divert mental health patients from the county jail to programs that can actually help them. This has always been an issue. It’s always been a problem that needed to be dealt with.”
White said having the mental health deputies is a proactive and collaborative approach. “We’re trying to address issues before someone goes into a state of crisis where they may do something that’s dangerous to themselves or others, and diverts that individual from going to jail,” White said.
He said he began meeting with Hill and the police chiefs in the county several months ago, when they began working on a proposal to receive the grant.
“This opportunity for us in a rural setting is such a wonderful blessing, because these (grants) are so competitive,” White said. “Funding is tight across the state.
“It will help us provide a more efficient service to that individual, and a more appropriate service. Now we’ve got someone who is part of us, in a way. This is such a wonderful opportunity for the center … I just wanted to kind of get my trumpet and blow it.”
White said he thinks funding will continue for the mental health deputies beyond the two-year grant period.