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Smith County Diversion Coordinator gives update on inmate jail diversion program

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Published: May. 3, 2022 at 9:35 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Sandra Brazil-Hamilton is the Smith County Diversion Coordinator and has stayed busy the last seven months coordinating the diversion program. The Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health developed this project to help coordination between courts and behavioral health providers to help inmates.

The program is the result of the Smith County Commissioners Court accepted a $171,000 grant from the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health in August 2021. The goal of the grant is to help those in jail who face mental health struggles.

“I go through the process with the judge in the mornings to see who has mental health issues, I look at if the local mental health authority has them, which is Andrew’s Center. They may be their client, so I contact them and let them know that they’re incarcerated and they may need to be seen by them,” she said.

The program focuses on defendants with mental illness who have been charged with non-violent offenses, then diverts them from the criminal justice system. Brazil-Hamilton says she talks to about 15 people a day facing mental health struggles.

“I’m telling you, I spend all my days, everyday, Monday through Friday seeing new people. Seeing people, helping them, if they have a court date then I pull off and go to court with them and I’m working on this,” Brazil-Hamilton said.

Not only is she working with the inmates, but coordinates plans and resources for the courts and everyone involved on the legal side.

“I met with the probation people, I’ve met with the district attorney’s office, with the courts, the judges, so that they have an understanding of what I’m doing,” Brazil-Hamilton said. “And we’re all working together and it’s getting better and better as we go along.”

Brazil-Hamilton is able to help these individuals find housing, jobs, and treatments.

“When they go to court, in the courts I offer these treatment plans and then they make that part of their conditions of probation, as opposed to just sitting in the jail and decompensating,” she said.

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