Tremendous Cost to Jail the Mentally Ill
June 9, 2016, WFAA in Dallas reported ugly facts about the monetary, public health and safety costs of jailing the mentally ill, rather than funding needed state mental health facilities. The WFAA report is online: http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/texas-news/state-mental-hospitals-lack-of-maximum-security-beds-creates-long-waits/238475382
If accurate, the WFAA report demands immediate action by responsible Texas state officials. Among the WFAA report’s revelations is: The average jail warehousing time for a mentally ill patient accused of violent crime is 5-6 months. This is insane!
The “reason” for the remarkably long jail warehousing of violent criminals, as reported, is insufficient space in state mental healthcare hospitals.
Astoundingly, WFAA reports that Texas has reduced the number of beds in state mental care facilities by 425 since 1994. Would anyone argue that the incidence of mental illness has decreased during this same period? Certainly not! So mental illness is on the rise and Texas is decreasing capacity in psychiatric hospitals.
The Dallas County Criminal Justice Director is quoted by WFAA as describing the cost of supervising jailed mentally ill as “tremendous.”
Learning the dirty secret that violent criminals are warehoused in jails, rather sent to psychiatric hospitals as ordered by our courts, should evoke outrage from all caring citizens.
Sadly, jailing the violent mentally ill merely hints at the mess that is the Texas public healthcare system. The violent mentally ill make up a tiny fraction of people who are daily denied humane assistance that system. Our homeless, our veterans, and all our invisible needy have no reasonable social safety net–not even a place to rest, to shower, or to find a bottle of water.
As politicians rave on during this election season, take note that almost none of them will say anything concrete about improving Texas public health care–among the worst in the country. Nor will they speak to the needs of the mentally ill. Politicians unwilling or unable to articulate specific plans for attacking the increasing cost and diminishing quality of health care are unfit to serve. And “I will dismantle Obamacare” or “I will not expand Medicaid” are not plans.