*All videos are Closed Captioned on Youtube*
Harris County now has a new resource to help keep people with mental illness out of the Harris County Jail. The new Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center provides law enforcement with a community-based alternative for persons with mental illness who have been picked up for low-level, non-violent offenses such as trespass. The Diversion Center celebrated its ribbon-cutting and dedication October 1, 2018 at 9 a.m.
“The opening of the Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center offers our community a viable and humane solution to the criminalization and inefficient detention of people with mental illness and truly embodies the spirit of relational policing,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.
The center will provide an array of services that include:
“Our public safety depends on the way we utilize police and prosecutor time. Diverting the mentally ill to treatment instead of jail will help keep Harris County safer and save taxpayers millions,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg of the new Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center.
Sometimes people with mental illness and criminal justice involvement may fall through the safety net. As Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez explains, “The Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center fills a gaping hole in our public service safety net, connecting those suffering from mental illness with the right resources without an unnecessary jail stay that hurts families and drains public safety resources.”
The Harris County legislative delegation has been supportive of issues related to mental health. State Senator Joan Huffman and State Representative Senfronia Thompson led the legislative efforts that created the Harris County Mental Health Jail Diversion pilot program at Judge Emmett’s office, which laid the ground work for this new programming.
According to Wayne Young, Chief Executive Officer of The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, “Though the Harris Center now operates the Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center, it is truly a collaboration between community partners who are deeply committed to better serve the mental health needs of the most vulnerable residents in our community, rather than the jail.” Key partners include Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the Harris County Commissioners Court, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, the Harris County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Mental Health Standing Committee and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The Diversion Center is named in honor of Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and his long-standing commitment to improving the lives of persons with mental illness. “This is a truly humbling honor. Although my name is on the building, many others worked to make this a reality. To be clear, though, this facility is dedicated to those individuals and families who deal with mental health issues in their lives,” said Judge Emmett.
As The Harris Center’s crisis division, the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) provides services to individuals in Harris County experiencing a mental health crisis. From its 24-hour Crisis Line to its internationally-recognized collaborations with law enforcement, the CPEP is constantly working to reach those who need help.
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Thursday, March 28th
The Harris Center Public Affairs team worked with a media crew from the Mental Health Channel to support its efforts to produce a special documentary that highlights the intersection between mental illness and the criminal justice system. A segment of this special features Dr. Regenia Hicks, Director of the Harris County Jail Diversion program
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The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD strives to provide high quality, efficient, and cost effective services so that persons with mental disabilities may live with dignity as fully functioning, participating, and contributing members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay based on a sliding scale rate schedule.
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