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Mental HEalth Division

Frank Crowley Courts Building - 133 N. Riverfront Boulevard, LB 19, Dallas, TX 75207
Phone: (214) 653-3600 • Fax: (214) 653-5774

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Dallas County was one of the first to adopt a mental health criminal justice program. According to a 2010 comprehensive, eighteen month study conducted by a research scientist from Texas A & M in conjunction with the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense, Dallas was found to have the most successful mental health program in Texas (of the counties studied). Defendants from the mental health caseload in Dallas exhibited the lowest risk of recidivism of the counties studied.

Dallas has the broadest and most comprehensive array of diversion-oriented programming of any Texas county studied in that research. The Dallas County Community Supervision and Correction Department (Probation) claims to have a reduction in recidivism of 70% via CATS [Comprehensive Assessment Treatment Services] Evaluation. This is better than that of the general jail population.

The Dallas County Jail is the largest provider of mental health services in the county and the 4th largest in the state (after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the State Hospital and the Harris County Jail). The Dallas County jail has a 40 bed psychiatric Intensive Care Unit which is the largest in the state.

The Competency Attorney in the Mental Health Division of the District Attorney’s office handles competency matters including monitoring all out-patient competency restoration. This position’s “Out-patient Competency Restoration Program” alone, more than pays for itself. In 2009 the pilot program saved the county $300,000 by not housing the mentally-ill defendants in the jail. The program has grown significantly since then, saving more money for Dallas taxpayers. This program allows defendants to be treated in their communities, which is more beneficial than being in a hospital. These defendants are less frequently charged with new crimes than defendants that are sent to the hospital. This requires weekly staffings (meetings with the Judge, defense attorney, case managers, etc. in court). These individuals are required to come to court at least every two weeks. The attorney monitors the community based programs, whether the defendant is taking medications, attending court ordered doctor’s visits, drug testing, etc.

Therapeutic Justice, problem solving courts, dramatically reducing the high recidivism rate in criminal cases (especially of drug offenders which is the offense of many of the mentally ill – attempting to self-medicate their illnesses). There are twenty specialty courts in Dallas (twice as many as other counties of comparable size).

These courts work—individuals successfully treated do not re-offend, or do so at a much lower rate, thus saving money and public resources. These courts compel individuals to respect the system and participate in the treatment services offered or face swift consequences, which is regarded as a superior form of accountability to traditional sentences.

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