SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The San Marcos Police Department is asking for funds to create a program that would keep people with mental health issues out of jail.
SMPD Chief Stan Standridge admits there are several people in jail right now who belong in a state hospital instead.
“Our calls post-pandemic have increased as much as 40 percentile, we have got to figure out what kind of staff I’ll have to add,” Standridge said.
Standridge wants to go after grant funding to create a position for a mental health clinician under a new program with a behavioral advisory team. That’s because his force only has a mental health unit of three officers.
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement said that’s not required for all peace officers. The Hays County Sheriff’s Office, however, does require it for all its deputies.
“It could be screaming, it could be… maybe a person’s hearing something, you know, voices within their head,” Hays County Deputy Steve Cunningham said.
Cunningham said even with training, there’s still a challenge getting people the true help they need.
“The toughest thing on the mental health right now is people who are funded versus unfunded,” Cunningham said. “We have insurance that has some coverage; it speeds up the process of them getting into a hospital.”
According to Standridge, there are currently 17 mental health clients in jail waiting for a state hospital bed.
“They’ve been there, on average, almost a year. In addition to those 17, there are 12 waiting forensic beds for the Vernon state hospital,” Standridge said.
SMPD’s proposal would also team up the force with statewide mental health organizations to screen 911 calls before police go to them to better target what’s needed.
“We have some work and that’s why I think the behavioral advisory team needs to leverage these resources,” Standridge said.
Written by Jala Washington