The Mental Health Minute

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Texas cuts force police to care for mentally ill

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Here’s an article from Chron: Texas AP News that I just had to post here.  As a psychiatric nurse currently working in the state of Texas, this article was of some interest to me personally and professionally.  Texas is not known for its generosity in dealing with mentally ill people; so it seems that the current budget crisis is a perfect opportunity for the Texas government to squeeze even more out of this pocket–maybe even to rip this pocket out of the budget totally.

The current trend to “criminalize” the mentally ill is not okay.  Police do not have the time or the skills to deal with psychotic and delusional persons.  The police are trained to prevent crimes and not to assess a persons mental status.  My fear is that with police having to deal more and more with the mentally ill, there will be more accidental shootings or even more intended shootings.  Suicide-by-cop seems to be an acceptable method of committing suicide in the population I treat.

Please read this article and let me know your thoughts on this topic.  I am frightened for my patients and for the state of mental health care in my state.


© 2011 The Associated Press

March 13, 2011, 10:27AM

AUSTIN, Texas — 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.

“We’re about to see huge setbacks. I think we’re going to get slaughtered,” said Leon Evans, chief executive of Bexar County Mental Health Care services. “We’ve been developing some tools so people don’t have to go to the hospital and prison. But I think all these programs that are very effective, that help to reclaim lives, are at risk.”

Experts say slashing mental health funding will have a painful and resounding effect across Texas when the mentally ill can’t access the treatment and medication they need to function.

“What’s happening is the criminalization of mental illness,” said Polly Hughes, public policy chair of National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It shifts the responsibility of taking care of mental illness to the counties and officers who are already stretched thin.”

Community services such as clinics, crisis hotlines and outpatient treatment are critical to keeping the mentally ill out of state institutions and jail.

The shortage of mental hospital beds means officers often have to drive a mentally ill person hundreds of miles to the next open bed.

“What we’re facing in 2011 are law enforcement officers as de facto social workers and jails becoming asylums,” Houston Senior Police Officer Frank Webb said. “Police officers are responding to more mental illness than social workers.”

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.

As the seventh largest in the country, the jail is already dealing with limited resources and overflowing cells.

“If community mental health services don’t get the money they need, we’re going to end up being mental health institutions. In fact, we’re already there,” Valdez said. “If we start overloading the system, we’re not going to have what we need to take care of them.”

The stream of people into jail is continuous because it’s easier to get arrested than get treatment, Webb said.

Mental health cases are becoming so prevalent that departments across the state and nation have made …[read the rest of this article here]

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April 4, 2011 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , ,


  1. Being mentally ill these days is heart and spirit breaking. Many people with serious mental disorders are high functioning, the so called ‘invisible mentally ill’. Texas, as in other areas, are very antagonistic towards these types, expecting them to be happy doing menial jobs full time, and ostracize any that may try to get back into their professional careers after time off, particularly if living in small towns. Texas law is also, sadly, behind the times as well. A person with schizophrenia, can achieve their LD, teach law, but is banned from jury duty. Many of the invisibly ill are in all levels of practice in many professions, unknown to others. There are huge gaps in acceptance, and Texas can be at the forefront of a new and more enlightened society, if they have the passion and courage to do so. Will they? And when? It is time to dismantle this discrimination of human beings.

    Comment by Vivie | April 4, 2011 | Reply

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  6. In the United States the American Psychiatric Association has traditionally been the organization to define mental disorders beginning as early as 1917 when it was known as The Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions of the Insane . More recently many have recognized that mental health is more than the absence of mental illness.

    Comment by business daily | May 23, 2011 | Reply

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