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By Pat Laney

A study done in 2006 by the Justice Department estimated that more than half of America’s prison and jail inmates have symptoms of a mental health problem. Over a period of time, those involved with substance addictions develop mental health issues, where some then are treatable and others are not. The Justice Department also estimates that less than one third of those with problems are getting treatment behind bars.

For years, counties around the country have been experimenting to find the best ways to help people who are diagnosed with mental illnesses. Because mental illness affects so many aspects of life, people who live with them may need a wide safety net of services.

Although a number of model programs have emerged in many parts of the country, services for people living with mental illnesses are often fragmented and difficult for families and consumers to find and use. Sheriff David Byrnes is approaching the issue in a two fold process. The Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office has developed a Crisis Response Team as a result of a comprehensive examination of the current procedures for dealing with mental health consumers within our community. The Sheriff’s Office has recruited Dr. Jimmy Davis PH.D., LCDC. LCPC-AC. Dr. Davis joined the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office as a Forensic Psychologist in October 2010.  His duties include addressing the psychological needs of the inmates, as well as the psychological assessment and evaluation of prospective employees. Dr. Davis will continue with the outpatient program for the Kaufman County DWI/DRUG Divert Court program. He also will be replacing the Employee Assistance Benefit, a program that was available to County employees who needed help with personal problems, or counseling needs, but was eliminated in this years’ budget. With over twenty five years of experience in dealing with a broad range of psychological issues, Dr. Davis will be a critical part of the Crisis Response Team. He has a unique understanding of the effects of substance addictions and the correlation to mental health issues.  Daily deputies respond to calls regarding mental health issues, suicide calls, domestic

disturbances, as well as critical incident calls requiring the tactical team to be deployed, and with each call, it seems deputies have dealt with the individuals on a repetitive basis.

The primary goal of the Kaufman County Crisis Response Team is to reclaim a sense of safety and security in a time of crisis.  Crisis Team calls are dispatched through the emergency 911 system. Team members are able to fully focus on the emotional and practical needs of the family and /or individual in crisis, and to help them receive needed support, and to refer them to outside agencies for further support.

Deputies who volunteer to be part of the team must complete a ten week training program offered by the North Texas Suicide and Crisis Center, as well as completing 50 hours on the crisis line necessary to obtain their Crisis Counselor Certification. The CRT team is also available during the event of a natural disaster, and is prepared to operate within the Critical Incident Command Structure of the Sheriffs Office.

 Mental illness affects virtually every aspect of life and presents many challenges to individuals, as well as their families. People who struggle with these disorders need community support and continuity of care to move toward maximum recovery.

Sheriff David A. Byrnes stated “It is my hope that this program will demonstrate what can be accomplished when authorities, the community, and mental health officials work together.”