Justice of the Peace Rita Noel brought the grant opportunity to the rest of the judges in the county, and they agreed it was the type of program that is needed right now in the county.
59th State District Judge Larry Phillips said if the county is lucky enough to be one of two counties to get the pilot program, the grant could fund a position that would help “keep those that have mental health or cognitive disabilities from just sitting in the jai and not getting treatment or getting processed.”
But, no one is talking about being soft on crime. They are simply trying to make sure that the people who are locked up are not in the throes of a mental health disorder, Phillips said.
“There’s not anything that any of us (standing here) are going to do to jeopardize the safety of our citizens,” he said. “We live here. Our families live here. Our grandkids live here.”
To track those people in the jail who need that kind of service and to be responsible for helping to move them along in the process whether that means finding a bed quicker or helping to get medication and other treatment to help stabilized individuals while still in the county jail, would help in the court process. A coordinator might also mean that they can divert some of those people away from the jail as they come into contact with law enforcement in the first place that could be a better option in the pursuit of justice.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers, who said the grant request has support from mental health providers, TCC, adult probation, and others in the community, agrees now is probably the time for such a program, but he is concerned about adding another full-time position to the county’s payroll.
“There are issues that we have not resolved, like where they would be housed, whether it would be in the jail (or some other place)” he said.
But those issues could be worked out should the county get the grant. Other commissioners agreed and approved the application for the grant.
But Phillips went further saying thinks the time has come the position regardless of grant.