By Moses Leos III
A grant meant to help police departments fund a position to handle mental health cases could be on the horizon for Buda.
In April, the Buda Police Department submitted an application for the mental health officer grant program. The grant, which is funded by the Department of Justice, is offered to departments through the Capital Area Coalition of Governments (CAPCOG).
According to Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd, Buda is the currently the only law enforcement agency in Hays County that doesn’t have a dedicated mental health officer.
If the city is approved for the grant, Kidd said it would cover the first year’s salary and supplies for the mental health position. Buda submitted an applicant for $78,500, which covers salary, benefits and equipment.
After the first year, Kidd said Buda would incur the cost of the mental health position. According to Kidd, the city’s application must go through one final committee process before it is approved. He said the application is “ranked highly.”
If Buda gets the grant, Kidd said the position would help the city in a proactive manner toward mental health cases. He said the department would have a dedicated officer who would be able to “more easily deal with these types of issues.”
Kidd said the city has had a “substantial increase in mental health cases” over the past five years. Calls range from cases involving suicidal subjects, to welfare checks for at-risk individuals. He said the position would be able to implement preventative measures to help those with mental health issues avoid possible problems.
“If you wait until there’s an action, they are already in crisis at that point. What we’d like to do is to be proactive in preventing issues,” Kidd said.
Kidd added he has seen many people who are in jail who have mental health issues, and that if they were properly treated, they “wouldn’t have done things that got them into jail.”
The mental health officer position could also lessen a burden on the department when it comes to dealing with such cases.
In cases involving a suicidal subject who is taken into custody, two Buda police officers must drive the person to the nearest mental hospital in Kerrville. Travel time along with processing can take more than 12 hours to complete.
A mental health officer could fulfill that requirement.
“It will be less taxing or a burden on our patrol division and it allows us to provide a higher level of service,” Kidd said.
In Kyle, the position of mental health officer has been a part of the department staff for roughly three years, said Police Chief Jeff Barnett.
While the position is no longer grant funded, Barnett said the position has helped in a variety of ways. Along with the transportation of individuals to mental health facilities, the officer also helps train Kyle Police officers on mental health laws.
The officer also educates the public and provides services to citizens, Barnett said.
According to Barnett, the department has anywhere from five to 15 mental health transports and emergency detention orders per week.
Prior to the hiring of the position, Barnett said the city was forced to pull an officer off of patrol to handle mental health calls.
But for Barnett, the role of the mental health officer, along with the victim services coordinator position, is “tremendous for our community.”
“Their specialty is to serve the citizens and those who are in need,” Barnett said.
Mental health STATS
20% of prison inmates have a serious mental illness.
40% of individuals with a severe mental illness will have spent some time in their lives in jail, prison or community corrections.
50% of males in state prisons will experience a mental health problem requiring mental health services.
75% of females in state prisons will experience a mental health problem requiring mental health services.
63% of males in local jails will experience a mental health problem requiring mental health services.
75% of females in local jails will experience a mental health problem requiring mental health services.
2.3 to 3.9% of inmates in state prisons who are estimated to have schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder.
13.1 to 18.6% of inmates in state prisons who have major depression.
2.1 to 4.3% of inmates in state prisons who suffer from bipolar disorder.