Smith County leaders to meet Friday to discuss mental health issues in jail, community

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 5:45 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2022 at 7:52 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - On Friday, the Smith County Commissioners Court will have their first meeting discussing how to address issues of mental health faced by jail inmates, as well as in the Smith County community at large.

Last August, Smith County commissioners accepted a grant of $171,000 over two years to hire an advocate to help people facing mental health struggles while in jail. The grant comes from the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health.

The Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health and Texas Health and Human Services Commission joined forces to develop a pilot project focused on enhancing coordination between courts and behavioral health providers. In Smith County, Sandra Brazil-Hamilton took the Diversion Coordinator position in September. She also serves as the president of NAMI Tyler.

“I can close the gap of some of the things that we need to do as far as getting them into treatment. Those are things that I can help with because I am connected into the community as to what our community services are,” Brazil-Hamilton said.

The goal of the program is to focus on defendants with mental illness charged with non-violent misdemeanor offenses and divert them from the criminal justice system. Brazil-Hamilton said tomorrow county leaders will meet to talk more about the struggles faced in the jail and community.

“This invitation to our leaders is a first effort to really address mental illness and ask for a group of these people to be advisers to my taskforce that I have. That we will be drilling down on the problems of mental health and we will look at these problems and find solutions and offer these solutions to our commissioners and people that make decisions,” she said.

The district attorney’s office, the judges’ offices, probation staff and hospital staff will be in one room to hold these discussions.

“We’re going to be discussing how we can make this a better process and meet the needs of the people in East Texas. Bring these numbers of suicide down and give people a place to go,” Brazil-Hamilton said.

Friday is their first meeting but they will be having a monthly meeting to discuss and plan ways to make lasting change in East Texas.

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