Laura Edmonds, Assistant Director in Behavioral Health

Laura Edmonds, Assistant Director in Behavioral Health

Dallas County jails are working on helping reduce patient wait times for the state hospital.

The Dallas County Criminal Justice Department extended its partnership with the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority and the Parkland Health and Hospital System to help divert individuals from the jail and criminal justice system and to help reduce the state hospital waitlist.

On Oct. 5, the Dallas County Commissioners Court approved an order to extend the agreement to Aug. 31, 2022.

Laura Edmonds, Assistant Director in Behavioral Health, said the interlocal agreement funds Dallas County staff positions that support the Jail Based Competency Restoration Program. It targets individuals who have been found incompetent, or mentally unfit, to stand trial and are waiting in jail to go to the state hospital. It provides competency education to those who want to it while waiting in jail. The program has the ability to serve 24 men and 12 women.

“The male program has a designated 24-person tank in the jail,” Edmonds said. “The female program does not have a designated area in the jail yet, so all the female programming is done one-to-one. We hope to have a designated area soon. With COVID impacts on the jail, that’s a challenge at the moment.”

The program was implemented in 2018 after the state saw the waitlist for the state hospital grow and the wait times continue to grow. Edmonds said the availability of state hospital beds across the state is limited resulting in patients waiting for long periods of time.

“The individual isn’t able to move forward with disposing of his or her case until found competent, so many are waiting months and even close to two years for a state hospital bed just to help them regain competency,” she said. “Any alternatives that can be employed to target this population is needed and JBCR has been a great tool to help these individuals.”

The grant is funded through Texas Senate Bill 292 passed in 2017 and comes from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The Interlocal agreement provides funding for six Dallas County staff positions that support efforts to address those who have been found to be incompetent to stand trial. Senate Bill 292 funding is also utilized to support other jail diversion efforts in the community like funding the availability of wrap-around mental health services for those who have been involved in criminal justice and are in need of increased community support.

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