Texas mental health hospitals have long waiting lists for untried defendants

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) Portia Odufuwa, accused of firing a gun at the Dallas Love Field terminal this week, has been deemed incompetent to stand trial on previous felony charges because of mental health issues, court records show.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said Friday that once Odufuwa is formally charged in the airport case, authorities will have to determine again whether he can stand trial. “If he’s ineligible to prosecute, we’ll start over immediately, except this time for a crime involving violence. He’ll have to wait for those kinds of beds, high-risk beds, in public hospitals.”

The problem is that, as of July 26, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said there was about a 2,500 waiting list for state mental health hospital beds where unconvicted defendants could receive treatment, stabilize and become competent for trial.

“The bottom line is that because of the long wait for hospital beds for people like him, he never received any services.”

Alyse Ferguson, a senior attorney for Collin County Mental Health Administrative Counsel, said because of the waiting list, defendants with misdemeanors leave the system without receiving treatment at a state hospital.

Those charged with serious crimes must remain in district jails. “It’s going to be over two years at best for them to get a bed in a public hospital. So if they’re not treated in prison, they’re just on a waiting list, they could potentially end up with other incidents that could extend their jail time on other charges and cause more harm to themselves or others.” hit.”

A spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said the agency has a variety of initiatives working with regions to help ease the burden of the large waiting list.

For the past five years in Collin County, Ferguson said, judges have ordered waiting-listed defendants to be given medication in jail so they can stabilize and eventually be deemed competent to stand trial.

According to him, so far this year, 22 defendants have been stabilized and authorized.

This is 75% of those cases.

“We saved these individuals from sitting in our county jail, most of them saved about nine months of waiting time. So it not only benefits the individual, but also helps prevent system congestion and jail overpopulation.”

In Dallas County, District Attorney Creuzot said judges have ordered drugs for some defendants on the waiting list.

He said his administration is primarily trying to prevent people from entering the criminal justice system.

Creuzot recently opened the Dallas County Defection Center, which helps homeless or mentally ill people charged with low-level crimes avoid prison and get the treatment they need.

His office also gave $250,000 to the Dallas Police Department to expand the Right Care program, in which special teams respond to people experiencing mental health crises.

Creuzot also gave the cities of Addison, Carrollton, Coppell and Farmers Branch a total of $200,000 to help pay for homelessness and mental health assessments in their cities.

He said: “Again, what we’re trying to do is prevent these people from going to prison, but on the other hand, provide services to improve their lives, make the community safer and of course save taxes. That’s what this project is all about.”

Last month, Creuzot asked Dallas County commissioners to increase the number of mental health prosecutors in his office.

He also works closely with police departments in Collin County, Ferguson said. “I work with CIT officers in every department in our district and we meet regularly, we talk, we communicate, if an officer brings someone into our jail and they show some mental health issues, they let us know right away, so we can take action from the moment they walk in the door. “We have some senior officers who will even go out before arrest and contact people or try to contact them to avoid arrest.”

Ferguson, Creuzot and others in the criminal justice system told CBS 11 the state legislature needs to spend more money on mental health to address the problem.

Texas mental health hospitals have long waiting lists for untried defendants

Source link Texas mental health hospitals have long waiting lists for untried defendants

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