LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An agreement between Burke and the Angelina County Sheriff's office in regards to a mental health officer will continue for two more years.
The extension on the agreement was approved Tuesday morning by the Angelina County Commissioners Court.
"It's a win-win for all of us," Sheriff Greg Sanches said. "A regular deputy is not going to be as informed or trained to deal with this."
The agreement between Burke and the sheriff's office has been in place for the last year. Burke has agreed to provide a full-time mental health deputy. Sanches said this is able to save the county money. Mental Health Director Michael Cunyus believes his deputy at Burke is able to provide relief to the work load of the sheriff's office.
"It can be frustrating because they are trained to deal with legal matters and criminal activity,"Cunyus said. "The mental health portion is so small but occupies so much of their time. By having a mental health deputy. who that's their full time job, and they can just focus on that, that really does free up law enforcement."
According to Cunyus, the mental health deputy does everything from transporting mental health patients to treatment centers up to two hours away to helping with crisis situations in the county and other neighboring counties.
"If they take a patient two hours away, that is at least a four-hour trip," Cunyus said. "That is half the day away from the job for a normal deputy. For us, that is the deputy's job."
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, up to 16 percent of all inmates in jail and prison have some sort of mental illness. For Sanches, that is too high.
"The jail is not a place for a person just because they have mental health problems," Sanches said.
Cunyus believes a small amount of events has skewed the public's view on people with mental health.
"One of the biggest misconceptions of people with mental illness is that they are going to go out and hurt someone," Cuynus said. "That's the furthest thing from the truth."
Both sides hope the agreement will continue past the new two year term.