Jackson County isn’t waiting for the state of Texas to fill gaps in mental health care.
Sheriff A.J. “Andy” Louderback hired two, part-time deputies to answer mental health calls in the
community of about 15,000.
The deputies are retired peace officers from Jackson County who attended a 40-hour mental health peace officer course in Houston.
Louderback said these deputies free up the full-time deputies to perform law enforcement duties. He said the average mental health call takes 25 hours.
“We have a tremendous shortage of mental health beds in this state, so efforts like this to keep them from going into full-blown mental health crisis and requiring hospitalization are critical. It’s another way to attack the problem, a growing problem in our state,” Louderback said.
There are 2,463 beds at state psychiatric hospitals, according to the Mental Health Select Committee Interim Report from December. There is no inpatient mental health treatment in the seven-county area.
Louderback said currently, there are more than 400 inmates in county jails in Texas awaiting a bed at a state psychiatric hospital.
Louderback found the funding to hire the part-time deputies within his budget in 2016.
In the 2017 budget, however, the commissioners allocated $10,000 for part-time deputies, he said.
“I will go back to the commissioners upon depletion of the fund; however, this is not an exact science,” said Louderback, who also serves as the legislative director for the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas.
“If it’s justified, I’m sure we’ll try to budget it again,” said Wayne Bubela, commissioner of Precinct 2. “I think we’re taking a step in the right direction, and like I said, again, hopefully, the Legislature will realize that mental health is an important issue and a big issue for all the counties in the state and for the jail system.”
Click here to read the Advocate’s “Minds That Matter” series.