Mental health advocates are looking at a successful jail diversion program to get the mentally ill out of Kansas jails.
Because of their mental state, many advocates believe jail or prison may not be the safest place for someone with mental illness.
According to a study the John County Sheriff's Office conducted in 2010, 17 percent of inmates in the Johnson County Jail are mentally ill, and half of the inmates who have been in the jail 20 times or more suffer from mental illness.
Texas has long had a reputation for being tough on crime. But Bexar County, in San Antonio, has quietly emerged as model for jail diversion, which other states like Kansas are now working to replicate.
"We need to do more to keep mentally ill people out of the criminal justice system," said Rick Cagan, executive director for the Kansas' National Alliance on Mental Health.
Cagan held two meetings this week with law enforcement personnel, judges and district attorneys to share the successes of the Bexar County program, which lowered the prison population by moving mentally ill offenders out of jail cells and saved millions in criminal costs.
"I think people left with a sense of there are some things we can do and we need to forge those closer working relationships across sectors. We worked a little bit on a game plan for each community," he said.
Some components of the program are already being used in Kansas. The Olathe Police Department has a mental health worker on staff. The Johnson County Jail is weighing its options, and Wyandotte County Jail recently added a crisis intervention program.
"We need to make some investments in crisis facilities so that there are alternatives to jail, and we need to make sure that there appropriate mental health resources in place," Cagan said.
The Bexar County program is more proactive because it works to identify mentally ill people before they get arrested.
A suspect could get probation or be moved to a treading facility, even though some do slip through the cracks and end up in the general population, as do many of the mentally ill convicts in Kansas.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
Tuesday, May 21 2013 3:29 PM EDT2013-05-21 19:29:04 GMT
For months, concerns had been raised about the welfare of Lucas Webb. Born Jan. 3, 2008, Lucas knew much pain and suffering in his four short years. More >
State records released Monday show how Missouri social workers failed to adequately pursue allegations of abuse involving a preschooler. Lucas Webb, 4, would die five days after the state closed the abuse investigation.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 6:02 PM EDT2013-05-21 22:02:38 GMT
The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado touched down near Knob Noster on Monday afternoon.The EF-1 tornado had winds of 86 to 109 mph. A team from Pleasant Hill reviewed the damage andMore >
The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado touched down near Knob Noster on Monday afternoon.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 5:50 PM EDT2013-05-21 21:50:06 GMT
Shawnee police searched along westbound Interstate 70 in Kansas City, KS, Tuesday afternoon, looking for a gun used in a murder that occurred three years ago. Captain Bill Hisle with the Shawnee PoliceMore >
Shawnee police searched along westbound Interstate 70 in Kansas City, KS, Tuesday afternoon, looking for a gun used in a murder that occurred three years ago.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-21 23:16:48 GMT
MOORE, OK - The Oklahoma County Sheriff's office tweeted a photo of a frightened, muddy dog Monday after the deadly EF-5 tornado ripped through the town.The comment accompanying the photo said, "scared,More >
A heartbreaking photo of a little dog guarding the body of his owner, who was killed in the Moore, OK, tornado, is going viral.More >
An Oregon girl abducted as a baby and missing for 18 years finally emerged in Dallas this week when her mother turned herself in to authorities, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Department. More >
An Oregon girl abducted as a baby and missing for 18 years finally emerged in Dallas this week when her mother turned herself in to authorities, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Department.More >
Monday, May 20 2013 9:21 AM EDT2013-05-20 13:21:47 GMT
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - An Army wife who lost over 100 pounds while her husband was away in Afghanistan surprised the soldier Wednesday when he arrived at Wilmington International Airport. Misty Shaffer,More >
A soldier from Wilmington returns from Afghanistan to a big surprise: a new wife, a new house and a different child.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 9:18 PM EDT2013-05-22 01:18:28 GMT
As you sit at home and watch the coverage of the deadly tornado your children likely have questions about what happened. Experts say there are some good and bad ways to talk to your kids about the tragedy.More >
In the wake of the tornado that devastated Moore, OK, including two schools, parents now worry about their child's safety at their own school while finding appropriate ways to talk to their children about the tragedy.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 7:46 PM EDT2013-05-21 23:46:10 GMT
A state district judge has ordered the Gordon Parks Charter School to remain open until the end of June.This comes after the Missouri Board of Education recently voted to force the school to shut downMore >
A state district judge has ordered the Gordon Parks Charter School to remain open until the end of June. The Missouri Board of Education had voted to force the school to shutter its doors this month. More >