Lack of beds in mental hospitals in Texas delays treatment

Hundreds of inmates at a Dallas County prison have been waiting more than two years for beds in a state mental hospital.

DALLAS – Watch the story at WFAA tonight at 22:00

More than 360 inmates at a state mental hospital in Dallas County will not be tried.

On average, an unconvicted male prisoner waits about 795 days to obtain a bed. maximum security state hospital. The waiting period for a female prisoner in the same situation is about 230 days.

Defense attorney Stara Roemer said, “The wait is too long.”

In February 2021, the judge declared one of his clients incompetent. The judge ordered that he be sent to a state psychiatric hospital for treatment. Although more than 460 days have passed, he is still in prison.

“Yes There’s no end in sight, “Roemer said.” And that’s one of the problems … you have no idea when their number will be called. “

The WFAA first detailed the long wait times State hospital beds in 2016Emphasizes the work of Thomas Johnson.

Johnson, former Texas A&M footballerIn 2015, he ambushed and killed a White Rock Lake runner.

The judge ruled that a person diagnosed with schizophrenia was incapable of judging and sent him to a psychiatric hospital, but he was bedridden for months.

“When there are not enough beds, this is a crisis that we all need to have,” he said is concerned, ”his lawyer, Jennifer Balido, said in a 2016 interview.

Johnson was eventually admitted to a state mental hospital and convicted of murder. He was convicted in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison.

Waiting times have been long for years, but government officials say those waiting times are exacerbated by the pandemic.

In 2020, the waiting period for a maximum safety bed in Texas was 270 days. State officials say it has been 514 days.

In 2020, the waiting period for a minimum safety bed was about 3 and a half months. According to government officials, it is now 230 days or 7 and a half months.

There are currently more than 2,300 people in Texas prisons waiting for beds in public hospitals.

It is the responsibility of the county taxpayers to pay the debts of these prisoners while they are in bed.

“It’s unacceptable,” said Dallas County Commissioner Theresa Daniel. “I don’t care how you cut.”

Daniel told the WFAA that accommodating a prisoner in the county costs an average of $ 67 a day. However, if a prisoner needs health or mental health services, the cost increases to about $ 120 per day.

“Do the math,” he said. “It’s very expensive.”

Bexar County Prison has more than 220 inmates waiting in the beds of the state mental hospital. That’s almost double the figure a year ago, said Mike Lozito, director of the county’s Office of Criminal Justice Policy, Planning and Programs.

Lozito said the state did not fulfill its responsibility to “restore the ability of individuals to be tried.”

“The person is waiting for treatment,” Lozito said. “Sometimes they expect more than what their sentence will be … They can’t get a fair day in court because of their mental health problems.”

He says it is up to the state to solve the problem.

Government officials say they are working to increase the number of beds. Seventy maximum security beds are being added in Kerrville, and there are plans to build a 25-bed mental hospital in Dallas.

However, critics say the figure will never come close to solving a problem that has been a systemic problem for years.

“It’s not a good situation for everyone,” he said the provinces and it really puts everyone in crisis, “Lozito said.

Lack of beds in mental hospitals in Texas delays treatment

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