News Article Details

Sheriff enters contract for mental-health services for inmates

Athens Daily Review - 4/20/2018

April 20--Henderson County commissioners have hired a Corsicana provider for mental-health services, authorizing sheriff's officials to enter a contract with Philip R. Taft and Associates.

They firm also provides services to Navarro and Ellis counties, Sheriff Botie Hillhouse said.

"The way the new (Texas Commission on Jail Standards) mandate reads is the inmate must have access to a mental-health professional 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Hillhouse said.

Hillhouse said he obtained quotes from three companies, but that other than Taft, they wanted to interview inmates by teleconference after hours.

"This company does not," Hillhouse said. "They've got six individuals that will be on call who, if needed, could come to the jail to do a personal, one-on-one interview with the inmate."

The county will pay the same rate of $50-per-hour for 30 hours per week. The contract allows the sheriff's office to call Taft after regular hours.

"An on-call psychological assessment is $275, Hillhouse said.

The sheriff said the mental-health program instituted by the county a few years ago at the jail benefits the prisoners by giving them a mental-health professional with whom to talk. The maximum population at the Henderson County Justice Center is 508. On average, around 300 inmates are the jail each day.

Since the county's previous contract ended, Hillhouse said the "temperature" at the jail has risen a bit, with more tension with interactions between prisoners.

In recent years, meeting the inmate's mental-health needs has been increasingly more demanding for county jails. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards reported that in 2013, more than 40 percent of bookings into county jails were for individuals who were an exact or probable match for individuals who are arrested and have also received state mental-health services.

If the answers to questions on a screening form filled out on the prisoner at booking indicate mental- health issues, sheriff's officials must notify a magistrate within 72 hours that they are in custody.

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(c)2018 the Athens Daily Review (Athens, Texas)

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