AUSTIN -- Houston Sen. Joan Huffman is proposing a pilot program to divert the mentally ill away from the Harris County jail, the largest mental health care provider in Texas.
The Republican lawmaker filed the bill Wednesday, and said the measure would reduce the social and fiscal costs of jailing non-violent suspects with mental illness.
Texas has an extreme shortage of mental health services, leading to many to end up in jail when they need help.
The Harris County sheriff's office administers psychotropic drugs to more than 25 percent of inmates. Officials say the program would provide easier access to mental health care and expand community support programs to keep the same people from constantly cycling through the jail.
If the pilot program works, she said the state could expand it elsewhere.