Elected officials from Harris and Galveston counties, as well as mental health professionals from three counties, held a news conference today to discuss the proposed legislative budget cuts to mental health services, and how they will impact costs of law enforcement, public safety and the safety of individuals with mental illness. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
The list included Harris County Judge Ed Emmett; Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia; Dr. Steven B. Schnee, Executive Director, MHMRA of Harris County; Lynne Cleveland, MHMRA of Harris County board chair; Cindy Sill, Executive Director, Tri-County MHMR; G. Michael Winburn, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Center of Galveston and Brazoria counties; Jamie Travis, Gulf Coast Center MHMR, chair of the board; Revernd Robert T. Flick, Gulf Coast Center MHMR, board of directors, Galveston County; Mary Lou Flynn DuPart, Gulf Coast Center, MHMR, board of directors, Brazoria County; Jeanette Taylor, Executive Director, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness); Galveston County Sheriff Freddie Poor and George Patterson, Executive Director, Texana Center.
“We are talking about conditions that are serious, they are neuro-chemical disorders of the brain, that people don’t choose,” said Schnee in opening the news conference. “They no more choose to have those, nor do their parents choose to have their loved ones have a condition like Schizophrenia, which can be life altering in nature, than they would choose to have diabetes or any other serious, long-term condition.”
Schnee said that the proposed legislative spending cuts will require county jails to hold patients who should be getting treatment, acknowledging that the mental health patients get excellent care in the jails, but no help when they return to the streets.
“Forget right or wrong,” said Judge Emmett. “This is the most conservative thing to spend money on.”
“That’s right,” agreed Sheriff Garcia.
“We spend money on mental health, we save money in criminal justice,” Emmet said.
“They don’t need to be in our jails,” said Sheriff Poor. “They need to be out receiving treatment.”
“We need to say ‘no’ to the cuts,” said Cleveland. “I can tell you that after serving as a volunteer for 25 years I have been never more afraid than I am today. If these cuts go through, I believe wholeheartedly, people will die.”
All of the participants at the news conference urged members of the public to contact their state legislators and urge them to support spending on mental health programs and to stop the proposed cuts.