The Velvet Revolution Occurring in Bexar County!
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
December 5, 2011

One might argue that the Texas Revolution began here in Bexar County in 1813. Today, an entirely different revolution is taking place: a revolution in the thinking that goes on with respect to our criminal justice process.

Despite the fact that 95% of everyone incarcerated comes out, sooner or later, for good or ill, we have often neglected to ensure that they come out successfully. Whether a segment of them should be in a conventional jail setting or not, raises a question as to just who should be in our jail and who would better be placed in a setting where his or her true problem can be effectively and economically addressed.

The days of "shooting and asking questions later" has come and gone. Today, mindlessly jailing the mentally ill is not only expensive since every 400 inmates annually costs Bexar County taxpayers $8 million, and 81% of everyone in our jail has already been there before, often five, ten or twenty times!

So where is the correction that should help ensure that they don't come back to our jail? Just simply cycling these individuals through our jail is mindless, ineffective and very expensive. Today, we have a Community Partnership which meets regularly: the Jail Diversion Oversight Committee, the Jail Diversion Planning and Advisory Committee, the Community Medical Directors Roundtable and the Private Partners Sponsorship.

To properly treat the mentally ill in our criminal justice system, we begin with critical entry points: the jail, courts, public and private mental health providers and community advocates like the National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). To gain the utmost advantage, the Center for Health Care Services, our major mental health care provider, financed significantly by Bexar County and our County's hospital, the University Health System engage a data-intensive process to learn about the inmate.

This data exchange occurs through a community collaborative, The Crisis Care Center at the Robert B. Green Hospital where the most serious of the mentally ill population is taken, the proper handling through a crisis intervention trained law enforcement community, detention personnel at the jail and juvenile detention and the Statewide Care Match. The Match allows our Center for Health Care Services to communicate information to arresting agencies so as to most effectively treat the inmate/patient; save time, money and effective get at the real problem.

The real front door to our system is "CIT", crisis intervention training. This is a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the mental health community that helps law enforcement officers to better and more effectively handle incidents involving mentally ill people. Bexar County has trained 2,000 veteran officers including command staff to handle the mentally ill.

"Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle...they conquer by strategy." - Sun Tzu

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