County Jails Needing Help With Mental Patients

By Anayeli Ruiz
NewsWest 9

BIG SPRING - Mental health patients are crowding jail cells, draining local resources and becoming a burden.

"Most of these people are misdemeanors, criminal trespass, like going to the local public places and making a nuisance out of themselves," Howard County Judge, Mark Barr, said.

Police are then called and it's up to the local jails to deal with the patients.

"They come and they see that they need some help and the only place that they can take them is to the local jails," Barr said.

Howard County Judge Barr sees this firsthand every week, because he also oversees the patients that go in and out of the Big Spring State Hospital. He knows that there just isn't enough room and MHMR can't take care of everyone. So they end up in the local jails and the patients end up needing medicine, the jail has to pick up the tab.

"We can give them some psychiatric drugs in jail but the county picks that up and those psychiatric drugs are not cheap," Barr said.

In Howard County, that number is close to 20 percent of the jail population.

"We got people that are taking medicine for mental illness, we will have on average 12 in our jail and we have a population from 55 to 60," Barr said.

Ultimately, in the end, it comes out of the taxpayers wallet.

"Your local taxpayers are picking up the bill where the state should be stepping in and helping out with this situation," Barr said.

Bottom line, they need help from the state. On Monday, Howard County passed a resolution.  In it they are asking the Governor and State Representatives to step in and help in other counties across West Texas that will be doing same thing.

"We had a resolution that within 20 days that the Health Department has to come and get them out of our jails and put them in State Hospital or get them some private help somewhere," Barr said.

Officials hope to get more funding from the state in order to help keep the mental patients out of the jails.