OPENING OF MENTAL HEALTH UNIT CONTINUES MEDICAL, CRIMINAL JUSTICE IMPROVEMENTS
HOUSTON – Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia will join leaders of the Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority and the University of Texas-Harris County Psychiatric Center (UTHPC) Friday at the opening of the UTHPC’s Competency Restoration Unit for certain defendants in criminal cases.
The restoration-of-mental-competency program for Harris County has been in development since late 2011. But the need for the program was underscored when a state district judge in Travis County ruled this year essentially that keeping prisoners who have been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial in jail for long periods of time is a violation of their constitutional right to due process. The ruling states that these inmates must be moved to a psychiatric hospital, for possible restoration of competency, within 21 days of being ruled mentally incompetent.
Across the state, such inmates have typically waited an average of six months before receiving placement at a state hospital. Harris County has done better; currently, individuals are awaiting placement for an average of two months. The UTHCPC unit will help speed up the process for inmates in Harris and surrounding counties, thus saving jail housing and court costs.
Funds for the program come from a $4.4 million grant from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The 21-bed unit for the program is set to open on March 1, 2012, and will admit five patients a day until it reaches an average daily census of 17.
WHAT: Opening of Competency Restoration Unit
WHERE: The University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center (UTHCPC), 2800 South MacGregor Way, Houston, TX
WHEN: Friday, February 24, 2012 at 11 a.m.
SPEAKERS: Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority Director Dr. Steven Schnee, UTHCPC Executive Director Dr. Jair Soares and Chief Administrator Lois J. Moore.
Speakers will be available to the media immediately before and after a brief program.