Washington County is paving the way for mental health treatment in jails

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tex. (KBTX) - The Washington County Jail and the Texas A&M Telebehavioral Health program have teamed up to provide counseling to inmates with mental health disabilities.

The jail recently went through a three-month trial period to test out the group and individual counseling.

Tuesday morning, county commissioners approved a year-long extension for the counseling.

Isaac Saldivar is the Telebehavioral Psychologist that works with the inmates at the Washington County Jail.

"We've definitely seen that gain of trust, and now more people are interested in being part of the program," said Saldivar.

Saldivar meets with them on a weekly basis via webcam. He helps treat anger management, depression, anxiety and trauma.

The program is first of its kind, and they already see results with one recently released inmate.

"He just graduated from the first program that we ran, and he's doing positive things in his life, so it's cool to see," said Saldivar.

Washington County Jail Administrator Eric Hensley said if they can get people help before they're released back into the community, it could help them stay out of jail.

"It will ultimately keep them out of the jail and be functional members of the society," said Hensley.

Hensley hopes the jail in Washington County will pave the way for others.

"We're hoping by us doing this, then a lot of the other counties will start reaching out to implement this," said Hensley.

Saldivar says the results he's seeing is exactly what made him want to become a psychologist.

"Being able to be a part of a program that's breaking ground and providing resources for people who really need them is important for me to do that," said Saldivar.

This extended initiative will cost the county $28,000. Hensley said in the long run, it will cost taxpayers less because inmates are getting help and potentially not ending up back in jail.

If you are interested in receiving help from Texas A&M's Telebehavioral Health program or working with them, you can call them at (979) 436-0700.