MIDLAND COUNTY, TX (KWES) - Midland County Commissioners approved the contract renewal with the Permian Basin Community Center Mental Health deputy services. The county currently has a contract to provide $70,000 of the state's grant money to continue their services.
Keeping the jail population down is one of the things that program has done. The Midland County Sheriff's Office works with people with mental health issues to make sure they are taken care of.
"We do have a problem with the jail capacity and we try to get this handled before they get into that area," said Robin Donnelly, Midland County Commissioner for Precinct 2. "This is an ongoing thing we have, we're trying to divert people from the jail. It's not a repository for people who need assistance in their mental health."
The deputy program allows mental health deputies to provide assistance for people who need professional help. Some of those who have gone into the program are homeless with drug and alcohol addictions or have faced traumatic experiences on the street.
"They don't have a place to go, they can't afford anything, they spend money on narcotics and alcohol," said Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter. "They have a hard life, but it's what they choose. Once they're in the criminal justice system, it's very difficult to get them out."
Whenever a deputy responds to a call and a person is either threatening suicide or showing signs of a mental crisis, Painter said going behind bars should be the last place they should go to.
"I don't want these people in jail," said Painter. "They do not need to be in jail. They need to be in a professional program somewhere where they're having counseling, medication to help them deal with a mental crisis going on in their life. It's a major incident for them."
Midland County receives around 1,300 calls a year where they follow up with people on medication to make sure they get help immediately.
"We need to handle that outside the jail, not inside the jail, that's not where they need to be," said Painter.