County plans to boost efforts to help mentally ill inmates

Posted at 6:57 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2017-03-02 17:38:08-05

McLennan County will soon increase efforts to help keep mentally ill inmates from becoming repeat offenders, said county judge Scott Felton.

He made the announcement at the State of the City and County Luncheon, which was hosted by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

Felton said there are currently 1,200 inmates in the McLennan County Jail. Of that number, the judge said 200-300 have mental health issues.

"We find a large percentage of our inmate population has some sort of mental health issue," Felton said. "If we put them in jail and we don't treat them in any way, then when they come out, more than likely they're going to be a repeat offender."

The judge said the county is partnering with the McLennan County District Attorney's Office, and several community organizations around the county to help better their efforts to help inmates fighting mental illnesses.

"I think there's a bigger effort in the community to make sure mental health issues are addressed properly," he said.

The Mental Health Mental Retardation Treatment Center is one of the organizations joining the county in its efforts.

Dana Lafayette is the associate director of adult mental health at MHMR and she said the organization is ready to help those inmates.

"We're very much involved in that process with the county," Lafayette said. "We take very much pride in being able to work with individuals to support them in what they're needing."

Lafayette said MHMR has two programs they plan to use.

"One team that we have is a jail diversion team to try to prevent them from going to jail," she said. "We also have a reintegration program so that whenever individuals are leaving the jail, we can get them connected to services to help them stay out of jail.

The director said the reintegration program is going to start soon.

"We will start in a couple of weeks working with individuals while they're actually still in the jail," Lafayette said. "Individuals with mental health, even those who have been justice-involved -- what they really want is to have meaningful purpose in life."

Lafayette said they will help the inmates plan for what they will do once they get out of jail.

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