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Mental Health Support for Texas Inmates on Lawmakers' Agenda

Liang Shi, KUT News
Texas lawmakers hosted a hearing on April 22, 2014, to look into what else should be done to provide mental health services for inmates at state facilities.

Texas lawmakers are looking into whether more should be done to provide mental health services for inmates at state prisons.

Prison officials say inmates already have access to medication and individual or group counseling for mental illness. Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston says the legislature has provided enough mental health funding in recent years for prisoners and parolees. And, he says, it shows.

"I think if you look across the country, our recidivism rates have continued to decline and other states have had an interest in knowing what the state of Texas has done in this area," Livingston says.

But critics say people need more access to quality mental health resources before they get arrested. Katharine Ligon, a mental health policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, says Texas should pursue a peer support program that provides help for inmates when they’re released from local jails.

"When you’re thinking about where you’re going to live, where you’re going to work, how am I going to eat? Your psychiatric treatment becomes last on the list," Ligon says.

Texas has about 150,000 inmates at more than 100 facilities statewide. As of February, roughly 25,000 of those inmates were getting some kind of psychiatric treatment.

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