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Mentally ill jailed on misdemeanor charges costing Gregg County millions

Longview News-Journal - 1/31/2018

Gregg County spent almost $600,000 in the past two years housing mentally ill inmates in its jail on misdemeanor charges.

That amount doesn't include health care and other costs that likely push the county's expenses into the millions, said Rachel Harrington, adult programming director for Community HealthCore, which helps identify people with mental illness.

In an effort to cut those costs, Gregg County commissioners gave Community HealthCore authority Tuesday to seek a state grant for $317,141 that would help jail administrators identify misdemeanor-charged inmates who have mental health issues.

The grant would reduce the number of days that such inmates are incarcerated and when they're incarcerated, said Sheriff Maxey Cerliano, "because once they're released, many of those inmates within a matter of hours, days or weeks are placed back in custody."

The program is for only misdemeanor offenders, but the county might pursue a separate grant program in the future focused on felony offenses, Cerliano said.

Harrington submitted the grant application Tuesday to Texas Health and Human Resources. If approved, the county would be responsible for a $100,213 cash match. Most of that amount would come from next year's budget.

One particular inmate - who was not identified - had a large number of arrests on misdemeanor charges before he eventually was arrested on a felony charge, Harrington said, "so if he were to have had some type of intervention ? he alone would save the county several hundred thousand dollars if he had been in this type of program."

Added Cerliano, "We just are excited about the possibility of getting some additional mental health services for our jail inmates."

In other business Tuesday, commissioners renamed Williams Road northeast of Longview to East Williams Road. East Texas Council of Governments' 911 addressing division asked for the change to end confusion with a road of the same name southeast of Longview.

Recently, emergency responders called to Williams Road in Pct. 4 near Easton mistakenly responded to the road now known as East Williams Road, Pct. 1 Commissioner Ronnie McKinney said. New signs for East Williams Road in his precinct soon will be added, but residents won't have to change their addressing because the roads have differing ZIP codes, he said.

Also, commissioners approved an engineer task order for a culvert replacement project on West Bar K Ranch Road.

To avoid impacting school traffic, McKinney said the project is set to begin June 4 after classes end for the summer at nearby Johnston-McQueen Elementary School and should last about a month.

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