Brazos County Sheriff's Office looks to prioritize mental health

Published: Jul. 5, 2016 at 8:13 PM CDT
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Officials at the Brazos County Sheriff's Office say they're making mental health resources a main priority.

Michelle Leija is a mother who watches her son deal with mental health problems.

"It's been very difficult," she explained. "We've dealt with this since he was about 12 years of age until now. He just turned 19, and it's been an on-going issue."

Leija says it's a struggle to get her son the help he needs for his diagnosed schizophrenia.

"I want somebody to actually care and say, 'OK, what do we need to do for this individual to make him a productive member of society,'" said Leija.

The Brazos County Sheriff's Office said mental health care is one of their main priorities. They started the Crisis Intervention Team nearly nine years ago after the jail started to reach capacity.

"When one of our CIT deputies goes out in the field and they see somebody that's obviously involved with some mental crisis, they work with MHMR, get them screened, and they're either hospitalized or referred to an out-patient treatment, and then they get the help they need and don't get locked up, " said Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk.

The sheriff is also looking to bring more resources to the area with a budget proposal: more patrol deputies, medical health professionals and correctional officers to maintain security.

"Being able to cover our shifts better, very critical things for us, and to have that extra help is paramount," said Sheriff Kirk.

They're also asking for a re-entry specialist position to be added to the budget.

Kirk said, "It will help us move the inmates from their time incarcerated into the free world and help them adapt better, hopefully avoiding re-arrest."

Another item on the list: a new training facility. This item was originally on the agenda when the administration building was built, but cut due to the budget.

"I think it's time the county prioritizes that for the sheriff's office so that we can build that facility, be able to train our officers and deputies in a professional environment, and have the breakout rooms and computers and the things that are necessary for proper training," said Kirk.

The new training facility could cost nearly $1 million.

The county's fiscal year budget proposal will be filed at the end of July.

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