Cuts could turn Angelina jail into mental health facility

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Morgan Thomas - email

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Some state lawmakers want to cut funding to community mental health clinics like the Burke Center, which serves 12 East Texas counties.

Director of Operations David Cozadd says cuts to funding would mean cuts to personnel.

"Clinicians, professionals, when we cut personnel that translates into few people getting served," Cozadd said.

Mental health services in Texas have come a long way. Before, those who suffered mental illness ended up in local hospitals and jails.

Cozadd says we may be headed back in that direction.

"Particularly, if we talk about people who become so sick they become a danger to themselves or others due to a mental illness," Cozadd said.

Angelina County Sheriff Kent Henson says they rely on the Burke Center when mentally ill individuals are arrested and brought to the jail.

"We call the Burke Center and they send a crisis worker out to do a screening on these people," Henson said.

Right now, they're assessed and given the proper course of treatment for their situation.

But if crisis workers were cut, the inmates would have to stay at the jail.

The Angelina County Jail has only one padded cell and two restraint chairs. They just don't have the resources to get in the business of housing mentally ill inmates.

Henson says those type of inmates are a liability to the county. They can hurt themselves, other inmates or jailers.

"The sheriff and his staff is charged with safely keeping all the inmates," Henson said. "When we put on in there that's mental health subject there could be a problem there."

Cozadd is concerned with the effects of jail on these individuals. Since they just can't take care of them the way the Burke Center can.

"The risk is people further deteriorating, becoming even sicker," Cozadd said.

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