Friday, January 26, 2007

Averting Jail in Texas

In Tarrant County, Texas, compassionate police officers, trained in assisting the mentally ill, are working to keep the mentally ill out of jail. Thanks to those like Officer Spakes, people like this older man were able to get help instead of getting arrested.

Instincts and training kicked in when Fort Worth police officer W.E. Spakes
answered a call on his north-side beat and encountered an older man. Spakes knew that there was something wrong with the man, who had a habit of walking the streets carrying his money in a plastic grocery bag. He said the man talked about "hearing voices that were telling him to do things" -- to himself and others. Spakes didn't consider the man an imminent threat to anyone else, so he made a call and described the situation. As a result of the call, Spakes said, he got the man "the help he needed" without putting him into the criminal justice system.

Tarrant County and officers like this one are working to “get mentally ill people the help they need rather than filling the jails with them.” Another story that makes it clear that it is the right combination of people who care and laws that work – and are implemented – that will truly help the mentally ill get treatment.

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