SAN ANTONIO – The inability to provide adequate resources to Bexar County Jail inmates with mental health issues is why Sheriff Javier Salazar said creating a mental health care unit in the jail is a top priority.
Part of the plan includes re-purposing part of the jail for the unit and bringing in mental health care specialists.
Precinct 1 Commissioner-elect Rebeca Clay-Flores said she understands that mental health is a major problem that needs to be addressed locally.
“A big part of my campaign has been on mental health,” Clay-Flores said. “Sadly, in the state of Texas, our jails are the number one provider of mental health services.”
The inadequacies affect more than incarcerated individuals, Salazar said.
“We don’t have enough mental health beds in the state of Texas. Consequently, jails are becoming kind of our de facto mental health facilities,” Salazar said. “I don’t think that’s fair to the taxpayers that are having to foot the bill for it. I don’t think it’s fair to the deputies that are having to fill a role that should belong to somebody else. Now, I certainly don’t think it’s fair to the mentally ill inmates that should be getting help.”
Flores agrees and adds that in addition to mental health care resources inside the jail, she’s working on more efforts to help youths avoid the correctional system altogether.
“It’s as if we wait for oftentimes our young people to make mistakes. They get thrown in jail and then we realize, ‘wait, maybe there’s a mental health issue,’" Flores said.
Before the mental health care unit would come into fruition at the jail, the proposal must be approved by the Bexar County Commissioners Court.
It’s unclear how much the unit would cost the county, but Clay-Flores said working on the plan with Salazar is a priority.