Awaiting pilot results, Travis County commissioners approve agreement to continue mental health jail diversion program

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Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to approve an interlocal agreement with Integral Care to continue a mental health jail diversion program, despite not having data on the program’s success as a pilot.

Commissioners Jeff Travillion, who represents Precinct 1, and Margaret Gomez, who represents Precinct 4, were absent.

“I want to be clear, I’m supportive of these kinds of programs, but we also have to have a clear indication and a clear understanding ourselves about what we would consider successful,” said Commissioner Brigid Shea, who represents Precinct 2, at the Aug. 13 meeting.

The program, which began as a pilot in 2016, works to divert individuals with mental illness out of jail and to connect them to services while their criminal cases are pending.

The county’s pretrial services division recommended approval of the agreement, which will solidify its working relationship with Integral Care, the local mental health authority, as the program is formalized.

County staff attributed the lack of data to privacy concerns and said Integral Care keeps client records and cannot share them without data-sharing terms codified in an interlocal agreement.

The agreement does not include any funding commitments. However, the county’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2019-20 includes $128,105 to continue the program beyond the pilot stage. The Commissioners Court is scheduled to approve the budget Sept. 24.

Although commissioners approved the agreement, they requested that staff return with the results of the pilot next week.

“When we move something from a pilot to an [interlocal agreement], we should have the results of the pilot,” County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said.

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Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.
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