By Renuka Rayasam
July 9, 2018

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AUSTIN, Texas - The Harris County sheriff's office doesn't want its jail to
be the largest mental health facility in Texas anymore - but first it needs
to find somewhere else to accommodate patients before they get swept up in
the criminal justice system.

The office created a separate bureau last year responsible for mental health
and jail diversion. While other law enforcement departments around the
country are also trying to keep mentally ill and drug-addicted patients out
of jail and into treatment, Harris County believes it's the first to
formally create a separate bureau responsible entirely for mental health and
jail diversion. It has equipped deputies with tablets that connect to a
psychiatrist for on-the-spot treatment or triage and will set up a central
booking desk this fall to better sort those arrested into treatment before
they get charged with a crime.