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Bexar County Establishes a Mental Health Team to Help Prevent Prison Suicides

The Bexar County, Texas Courthouse located at ...
The Bexar County, Texas Courthouse located at 29.4232° -98.4937° in San Antonio, Texas, United States, designed in Romanesque Revival style, was built in 1829. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bexar County Deputy Manuel Medelin of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday, October 30, 2017, that a four-person mental health unit has been formed. It is the first such unit in the State of Texas. The purpose of the initiative is to prevent prisoner suicides from occurring in Bexar County Jail. There were five prisoner suicides in 2016, which was nearly a record high. In addition, two prisoners have killed themselves in the jail this year. Sheriff Javier Salazar said that these deaths cannot be allowed to continue happening.

The Bexar County mental health unit has been named the Detention Mental Evaluation Team. It is to consist of four seasoned deputies. Their duties will be similar to colleagues in the Bexar County Sheriff’s Mental Health Unit, which patrols the county. The team will move freely throughout the facility. The prisoners considered to be at risk for a suicide attempt will receive special attention.

The Bexar County Detention Mental Evaluation Team will begin work immediately. Harris County and El Paso County mental health units will be visited, as part of the training. The mental health units with the San Antonio Police Department will also provide training. Salazar said University Hospital officials will provide training and support, as well.

According to Salazar, the set of standard questions that prisoners are asked during the booking process is one of the problems with mental health in jails across the U.S. He said it’s inadequate and should involve follow-up. He said the Detention Mental Evaluation Team will seek out prisoners proactively and provide care on a more personal basis.

One of the members of the new mental health team, Deputy Manuel Medelin, said that prisoners with mental health issues need some empathy.

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