Testimony on SB 44 to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee

Public Input Provided in 2011

February 15, 2011

Testimony
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
SB 44 by Senator Zaffarini

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) is established by federal law in the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act and consists of a 27 member board, appointed by the Governor, 60% of which are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities. The Council’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.

The purpose of S.B. 44 is to keep persons with mental illnesses, who have not committed a crime, in the safest environment while arrangements are made to take them to an appropriate place for mental health treatment.

This bill will help accomplish these goals by:

  1. Limiting the detention of persons with a mental illness to a maximum of 12 hours, and then only if an emergency room or other appropriate facility, as determined by a local mental health authority, is more than 75 miles away.
  2. Requiring that if the person is in a mental health crisis and must be restrained, they must be placed in an upright position where they can breathe comfortably. Restraint increases the mental health crisis and is dangerous to both the person who is being restrained and person performing the restraint.

Incarcerating a person with mental illness who has not been charged with a crime exacerbates the person’s illness. Conditions in jails and prisons are often terrifying for people with severe mental illnesses

What is often referred to as the “criminalization” of people with mental illness has evolved, in part, from deinstitutionalization in the 1970’s without building adequate community mental health and crisis services. But, in recent years, communities have developed new capacity to provide intensive intervention to consumers with urgent mental health needs. A survey by Texas A&M that included urban and rural sheriffs, large and small police departments, agencies with and without strong mental health expertise on staff and judges found that more people than ever before are receiving crisis intervention locally and at a lower cost per crisis episode.1 There are options besides jail for people who are seriously mentally ill.

TCDD sees this bill as an important provision in our state’s effort to redesign crisis mental health care.

For more information, contact: Belinda Carlton Public Policy Specialist belinda.carlton@tcdd.state.tx.us

Footnotes


  1. Carmicheal, et. al. Evaluation Findings for the Crisis Services Redesign Initiative – Report to the Texas Department of State Health Services (PDF). Policy Research Institute. Jan. 1, 2010, pg. 4. Retrieved Feb. 11, 2011.