Texas police department seeks state grant funding to keep people with mental health struggles out of jail

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – The San Marcos Police Department is asking for money to create a program that would keep people with mental health issues out of prison.

Stan Standridge, president of the SMPD, admits that there are many people in prison now who belong to a state hospital instead.

“Our post-pandemic calls have increased by up to 40 percent, and we have to figure out what kind of staff to add,” Standridge said.

Standridge wants to pursue grant funding to create a mental health specialist position under a new program with a behavioral counseling team. This is because his strength has a mental health unit of only three officers.

The Texas Law Enforcement Commission said this is not required for all peace officers. However, the Hays County Sheriff’s Office requires all of its deputies to do so.

“It could be screaming, it could be … maybe someone heard something, you know, voices inside their head,” Hays County Representative Steve Cunningham said.

Cunningham said that even with the training, it’s still a challenge getting the real help they need.

“The hardest thing on mental health right now is the people who are funded versus the people who are not,” Cunningham said. “We have insurance that has some coverage; it speeds up the process of getting them admitted to the hospital.”

According to Standridge, there are currently 17 mental health patients in prison waiting for a bed at a state hospital.

“They spent there, on average, nearly a year. In addition to those 17, there are 12 forensic beds waiting at Vernon State Hospital.

The SMPD proposal would also combine strength with statewide mental health organizations to screen 911 calls before police go to them to better target what’s needed.

“We have some work to do and that’s why I think the behavioral advisory team needs to tap these resources,” Standridge said.

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