Wednesday, October 12, 2016

World Mental Health Day 2016 fosters awareness, compassion

World Mental Health Day fosters awareness, compassion

Improving law enforcement interaction a priority, experts say

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Under the big top at the Mission Park pavilion, dozens of health providers and the mentally ill and families they serve celebrated World Mental Health Day, a day that fosters awareness and compassion.


"It is a medical disorder, just like diabetes or high blood pressure," said Gilbert Gonzales, director of Bexar County's mental health department. "You just don't wake up in the morning and decide, 'I think I'll be a schizophrenic today, or I think I'll be drug-addicted today.'"

Gonzales also said, contrary to what many may think, "Ninety-nine percent of folks with mental illness are not violent."

He said mental illness can be addressed through appropriate treatment and medication.

"It takes a while, but it can be done," Gonzales said. "People who are mentally ill do lead productive lives."

Gonzales said over the past decade in Bexar County, law enforcement officers have been trained on how to improve their interaction with the mentally ill and where they can take mentally ill people for treatment.

"If that law enforcement officer is not trained or doesn't understand, the person very regrettably ends up in jail instead of in treatment," Gonzales said.

Or worse yet, Gonzales said, the person could wind up in a volatile situation with law enforcement.

For instance, moments before Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot in September, his wife told police in Charlotte, North Carolina, he didn't have a gun, but had just taken his medication for a traumatic
brain injury.

A hospital employee, Jacob Sanchez, 23, said he's never had an encounter with police, but he knows, "That is a very touchy subject, a very big risk."

Sanchez said he has experienced the pain of rejection and misunderstanding because he has Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder that triggers involuntary movements and sounds known as tics.

Sanchez said he'll never forget when a store clerk told him, "If you don't stop it, you're going to have to leave. You're annoying the customers."


Web Extra: Interview with Jacob Sanchez, who lives with Tourette's Syndrome


Sanchez said he was stunned and told the clerk, "I can't help it."

He said even so, the clerk repeated this warning.

But now, thanks to the support of his family and his medications, Sanchez said, "I'm blessed with Tourette's. Honestly, that's how I feel. It's never held me back. Actually, I feel like I have a leg up. I've learned to conquer this. It's not going to stop me."


Copyright 2016 by KSAT - All rights reserved.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Handling of mentally ill offenders tops workshops

NACo Conference

Handling of mentally ill offenders tops workshops

Monday, Feb. 23 Reducing the Number of Individuals with Mental Illness in County Jails Who spoke? Patrick Fleming, director of behavioral health services (retired), Salt Lake County, Utah Gilbert Gonzales, director, behavioral health services, Bexar County, Texas Fred Osher, M.D., director of health systems and services policy, Council of State Governments' Justice Center What participants learned: Numbers don't lie. 

And in Bexar County, Texas, the data on arrestees with mental illness or substance use disorder being diverted from jail has been impressive. It's also saving money. Today, about 2,200 nonviolent offenders per month are diverted from jail, Gonzales said. The county has a population of more than 1.7 million and a jail that can hold over 1,000 inmates. Starting in 2002, a group of stakeholders began meeting that included law enforcement, judges and local hospital systems, among others. Their goal was to decrease the number of mentally ill inmates by keeping them from becoming inmates, that is, evaluating their mental health or substance use issues at the earliest point of contact upon arrest and before booking. Police can refer them to a county Restoration Center, which can assess mental health needs and refer them to appropriate treatment. Each of the county's 5,000 law enforcement officers is required to take 40 hours of critical incident training. 

A video about the restoration center's services (http://youtu. be/_7Pc8V-iXw0) is shown daily at police and sheriff 's roll call. Gonzales said the population that been successfully diverted to mental health services has a rearrest rate of 18 percent, compared to 34 percent for those not diverted. 

Through a partnership between NACo and the Council of State Governments Justice Center, an initiative to scale-up this kind of approach is underway, Fleming said. He outlined six steps of the process: convene a team of county leaders, establish a benchmark against which to measure success, assess treatment and service capacity, develop a plan with measurable outcomes, use evidence-based practices and track data. "We want to establish a baseline count so we can come back to you with both the pretrial and the sentenced population and their composition and you can understand where the initiatives that you're sponsoring make a difference," Dr. Osher said. NACo and CSG will soon issue a call to action for counties that wish to commit to learning more about, and implementing, such measures.

  Staff contact: Nastassia Walsh, 202.942.4289,
Workshops-1.jpgPhotos by David Hathcox

Dr. Fred Osher (l), Council of State Governments, responds to a question from a workshop audience member. Also pictured (l-r): Gilbert Gonzales, Bexar County, Texas; Pat Fleming, Salt Lake County, Utah; and Leon Evans, Bexar County, Texas.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bexar County policy on mental health model discussed at White House

Bexar County policy on mental health model discussed at White House

County officials invited to DC to discuss mental illness in justice system

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County has been a model for the rest of the nation on dealing with mental health in the justice system. A team of county officials went to the White House this month for a meeting about those strategies.
No matter where you go in the nation, there are people struggling with mental illness. That's why the White House has a new initiative to steer mentally ill and homeless people into treatment and away from jail.

"The criminalization of mental illness. In short, if you're sick, you go to jail. It didn't make any sense. This community has done some very innovative sorts of things," said Gilbert Gonzalez, director of the Bexar County Mental Health Department.

Gonzalez said 21 percent of Bexar County Jail inmates have been diagnosed with mental illness. Of those inmates, 60 percent have been to jail six or more times.

Bexar County Judicial Services director Mike Lozito said it's often for small, non-violent crimes.
"Our goal is to safely release individuals to the community that are low risk and provide treatment programs for them," Lozito said.

In order to do that, they have to identify who needs the help.

A new strategy adopted in Bexar County a year ago is to ask people coming into the county magistrate four questions:
1) Have you ever been to a doctor for mental illness?
2) Have you ever been prescribed medicine for mental illness?
3) Have you ever considered or attempted suicide?
4) Are you thinking about suicide right now?

Gonzalez, Sheriff Susan Pamerleau and other representatives presented this strategy at the White House earlier this month to other community leaders from around the nation. The Bexar County representatives took home a few ideas too.

"We have a large number of individuals who have mental health issues plus substance abuse issues. Our next step is: How do we address individuals with substance abuse and can we have the proper programs to divert those individuals," Lozito said.

They said the focus is addressing the needs of “super utilizers” -- chronic homeless individuals with mental illness, substance abuse and health problems who cycle through the nation’s jails and emergency rooms. With these newer strategies, agencies will be better able to identify “super utilizers” and redirect them to more appropriate systems of care.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bexar County Team attend the Stepping Up Summit April 17-19, 2016

#SteppingUp4Mental Health

From left to right:
Bexar County Mental Health Department Director, Gilbert Gonzales, President and CEO CHCS Leon Evans, Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, County Commissioner Tommy Calvert Jr., Presiding Magistrate Michael Ugarte, and Judicial Services Director Mike Lozito.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

Breaking the Cycle: Mental Health and the Justice System Testimony

Full Senate Judiciary Committee 

Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Time: 10:00 AM 
Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building 226

Presiding: Chairman Grassley

Below is a  link to the Senate Judiciary page with all the testimony from yesterday.

(Please note that testimony starts at the 19 minute mark)

 The Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing entitled “Breaking the Cycle: Mental Health and the Justice System” scheduled for Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 10:00 a.m., in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 10:00 am, in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

       By order of the Chairman.

Member Statements

  1. Senator Chuck Grassley R (IA)
  2. Senator Patrick Leahy D (VT)
  3. Senator Al Franken D (MN)


  1. Mr. Pete Earley
    Mental Health Advocate
    Fairfax , VA
  2. Dr. Fred Osher
    Director of Health Systems and Services Policy
    Council of State Governments Justice Center
    Johns Island , SC
  3. Sheriff Susan L. Pamerleau
    Bexar County
    San Antonio , TX
  4. Mr. William Ward
    State Public Defender
    State of Minnesota Board of Public Defense
    Minneapolis , MN
  5. Mr. W. David Guice
    Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice | North Carolina Department of Public Safety
    Raleigh , NC

Congregation Acting for Justice and Empowerment (CAJE) from Evansville, Illinois - Site Visit

February 11, 2016

Pleasure to host delegation from Evansville and their community continues to work towards their varies diversion initiatives.

Recieving an update during this visit :

·         Amy DeVries,Lead Organizer, Congregation Acting for Justice and Empowerment (CAJE)
      Diane Fehrenbacher, CAJE Mental Health Chair
      Mike Scavuzzo, CAJE Mental Health Committee member
     Cindy Ledbetter, Nurse MSN PNHNP APRN Family Psychiatric Services Practitioner, Deaconess Crosspointe
   Wyeth Hatfield, LCSW, Director of Integrated Health Care and Community Outreach, ECHO Community Health
      Lt. Monty Guenin, CIT Officer, Evansville Police Department

      Dana Renay, CEO, Indiana Autism Society

Friday, February 5, 2016

2016-02-03 Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice Visit

Pleased to host Cornelia Sigworth, Associate Deputy Director, Law Enforcement and Adjudication, Bureau of Justice Assistance. Ms. Sigworth was provided with an overview of the Bexar County System of Care.