State launches commission as jails remain primary provider of me

State launches commission as jails remain primary provider of mental health care

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The state launches its Judicial Commission on Mental Health with a joint session of its two highest courts.

The Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard arguments over how the judiciary can better serve individuals with mental health challenges who get caught up in the legal system.

Beth Lawson with StarCare called us during the meeting. She said it all starts with overcrowding in jails.

"It really is culminating at this point in time to a place where not only the need for focus on this issue, but also the rights of people with mental illness and then our collective responsibility to focus on this mental illness has really confluenced together," Lawson said. "It's... it's the perfect storm."

Lubbock County Judge Drue Farmer said it's such a problem the jails are serving as the primary provider of mental health care in the state.

She says inmates with mental health issues spend up to eight times more time in jail than other inmates.

"It's very costly to our community and it's also a great disservice to human lives hat could most likely be out on bond if there were treatment options available and support systems to hold them together and keep them from recidivating," Farmer said.

Lawson said a victim of mental illness waits five years on average to seek treatment.

She hopes this commission will teach more Texans about the effects and symptoms of mental illness, and above all, seek out an early diagnosis.

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