AUSTIN – A $50,000 federal grant is being used by Austin and Travis County mental health advocates to look for real solutions to the area’s growing problem with mental illness especially in the incarcerated communities.
“Specific to Austin, as our community has grown our psychiatric care has not,” said Judge Nancy Hohengarten, who presides over Travis County Court #5.
Travis County recently received a Justice and Mental Health Planning Grant.
Advocates analyzed 652 mentally ill inmates incarcerated in the Travis County Jail in 2011.
The data shows that the jail population is up to 4 times more likely to suffer from severe mental illness than does the outside population.
The study also suggests that if the same mentally ill inmates remained in the Travis County jail for three years it would cost taxpayers $23 million.
“Prevention as they say is the best way to keep people out of the criminal justice system,” said Hohengarten.
Mental health advocates will apply for another federal grant later this year which they hope will lead to more in depth studies of the issue.