Williamson County commissioners approve grant application for mental health jail diversion program

Williamson County commissioners approved a grant application for a mental health jail diversion program at a Nov. 26 meeting.
Williamson County commissioners approved a grant application for a mental health jail diversion program at a Nov. 26 meeting.

Williamson County commissioners approved a grant application for a mental health jail diversion program at a Nov. 26 meeting.

Williamson County commissioners at a Nov. 26 meeting unanimously approved an application for more than $1 million in grant funding that would support mental health services in the local criminal justice system.

The grant program was created by the Texas Legislature in 2017 to support mental health services. Successful applicants receive a one-to-one funding match from the state.

In collaboration with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services, a Round Rock-based nonprofit that serves individuals with serious mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, Williamson County is applying for approximately $1.04 million. If awarded, the funding will be used to divert individuals with mental illnesses from the county jail and connect them to treatment and support services, according to a project brief compiled by Kathy Pierce, the chair of the Behavioral Health Task Force.

“If we release [individuals with mental illness] and then they don’t have services, then they just come back,” Pierce told commissioners at the meeting. “It’s just a revolving door.”

The program aims to serve 1,250 individuals annually, per the brief.


“The No. 1 thing that you hear ... is that mental health patients are being housed in our jail, that our jail is the mental health ward for the state because the state has not added more beds,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said. “This grant will allow us to leverage our dollars.”
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By 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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