(HOUSTON TX) – Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia today expressed gratitude and thanks to County Judge Ed Emmett for seeking to preserve government funding for mental health care to save taxpayers money long term – and to prevent some local residents with mental illness from cycling through the jail.
“Now is the time to move forward -- fully funding those programs so that the taxpayer reaps huge benefits in the long run. It is the conservative thing to do to spend a little money now than to spend a whole of money later,” Emmett said today in his annual State of the County speech.
“We have a lot of Harris County residents who suffer from mental health conditions, and we must simply do a better job of caring for them,” Emmett remarked. “Far too many of these people end up in our county jail – time after time. The cost of incarceration and treatment in a criminal justice setting is staggering compared to proper preventive care and treatment.”
Among the approximately 1,100 people present for the speech in downtown Houston was Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who leads the Texas Senate. The Texas Legislature is considering proposed cuts to state funding of community-based mental health programs in Harris County and across the state. The Harris County Jail, run by Sheriff Garcia, is essentially the largest mental health institution in the state, housing on any given day about 2,400 inmates who have been prescribed medication for serious mental illness.
“You can call Judge Emmett’s statements bi-partisan or non-partisan, but I call them a wise, humanitarian and bottom-line-oriented approach to this crucial issue,” Sheriff Garcia said. “Judge Emmett’s remarks will, I hope, help us convince lawmakers that cutting state funding will only lead to higher criminal justice costs in Harris County that inevitably will be passed on to county taxpayers.”
Sheriff Garcia is vice chairman of the legislative committee of the Texas Association of Sheriffs.