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Commissioners renew mental-health service for inmates

Athens Daily Review - 4/17/2019

April 17-- Apr. 17--Henderson County commissioners members voted on Tuesday to renew the contract with Phillip R. Taft and Associates of Corsicana for mental-health services for inmates.

"They've been doing a fine job," Sheriff Botie Hillhouse said.

Sheriff's officials first contracted with the company in 2018 to pay $72,000 each year for the service.

Hillhouse said the service was needed to comply with the Sandra Bland Act.

"The way the new (Texas Commission on Jail Standards) mandate reads is the inmate must have access to a mental-health professional 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Hillhouse said at the time.

Bland was found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County on July 13, 2015, three days after being arrested during a traffic stop.

The act, passed in 2017, requiring that county jails divert people with mental-health and substance abuse issues toward treatment, makes it easier for defendants with a mental illness or intellectual disability to receive a personal bond and requires that independent law-enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths.

Hillhouse said the current contract will be sufficient if House Bill 601, which would slightly alter the process, passes the Senate and becomes law.

According to the bill analysis, HB 601 would require law-enforcement personnel to interview defendants to collect information to determine if they have a mental illness. A written report of the interview would have to be provided to the magistrate. The Texas Judicial Council would be required to adopt rules that require submission of the reports to the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System on a monthly basis.

"A report will be sent to the county judge's office," Hillhouse said.

The county judge will make a determination as to whether the the inmate should be sent to another location to deal with the mental-health problem.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners voted to allow County Clerk Mary Margaret Wright to contract with Tyler Technologies to upload about 4 million images for permanent records. The service will cost about $10,100. Wright said the land documents and property records date back to the beginning of the county.

"With this, the county will be no longer dependent on microfilm," County Judge Wade McKinney said.

And commissioners voted to:

--Accept various bonds for filing purposes.

--Allow Precinct 3 Commissioner Chuck McHam to provide edge work at the historic Chandler Cemetery.

--Accept the 2017 financial statement and 2018-19 budget and required affidavit from Emergency Services District 3.

--Authorize payment of bills totaling $268,022.96.


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