Collin County’s behavioral health authority will soon be providing specialized mental health coverage in the county detention facility, thanks to a Monday vote.
On Monday, Collin County Commissioners unanimously approved a program that will allow LifePath Systems to have Qualified Mental Health Professionals (QMHPs) at the facility 24/7.
Those professionals will work on-site with detention facility staff and healthcare contractors and will have multiple responsibilities during the book-in process, including identifying current or previous LifePath clients, completing mental health evaluations and determining levels of watch.
In addition, the QMHPs will coordinate community-based services for individuals with needs related to mental health, substance abuse disorder or intellectual or developmental disabilities upon their release.
According to the program proposal, the goal of the program is to improve the identification of those with mental health, intellectual or developmental disabilities or substance abuse disorders at book-in and to provide recommendations for the most appropriate care.
On Monday, Collin County Judge Chris Hill said the item was a continuation of a discussion that had begun during the budgeting process.
County Sheriff Jim Skinner spoke in favor of the program.
“I think in this case what we’re going to find out is we’re going to have a much keener awareness of our watches that we identify, because all that process starts in booking,” he said. “Many times when you have a young detention officer with no formal training, and they’re trying to do this role of assessing what the mental condition of that person may be, or if it’s a person that suffers with intellectual disabilities, we struggle.”
“By having these folks at intake, we’re going to have a much better chance of identifying those issues when they come in the door,” he added. “And so I think we’re going to see, and we’ll be able to quantify it, that we’re going to see a lot less confusion and more targeted treatment of those individuals who have had these problems.”
LifePath Systems CEO Tammy Mahan said the organization had been meeting with Skinner and individuals at the jail to discuss how the team could best be used.
“One of the initial points the jail staff pointed out is that they would need us at book-in to help do these mental health screenings,” she said. “The other good point is we would have access to our database, so anybody coming into the jail, we could look up if there was any history of them ever being with us and utilize that information to do a more well-rounded screening to determine what that individual needs and to help determine what level of watch they may need to be moved into. And then on the back end as well, as people are coming up, getting ready to be released from jail, we would be there to be able to pull up scheduled appointments, do things that we normally can’t do since our services kind of end at the front door and the back door of jail.”
The program is budgeted for $280,000 per year, most of which will go to salaries and benefits for the staff who will work in the jail, Mahan said. The rest will go to training and supplies.
Mahan said the staff hired for the program will come from LifePath’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, made up of people with experience in addressing crises and doing assessments.
According to the program proposal, each QMHP must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field and must have at least three years of experience working in community mental health with people diagnosed with serious mental illness.
“I have seen this particular program at work at another facility that I retired from,” said Asst. Chief Johnny Jaquess of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office. “This is a very good way to have effective screening and the right personnel doing the screening.”
Jaquess said the program was impactful when it came to determining levels of watch.
“Having a facility where half your population has a mental health diagnosis, this is very important,” he said.