The state of mental health services at the Washington County Jail was the main focus of a lengthy – and at times heated – workshop Tuesday with county commissioners.

The court met with representatives from the sheriff’s office, MHMR Authority of Brazos Valley and CorrHealth, the county’s medical provider at the jail, to discuss staffing concerns and issues currently being experienced with providing mental health services to inmates.

County Judge John Durrenberger explained that MHMR has been understaffed and unable to provide the full mental health services stipulated in its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the county.  It is seeking an amended MOU where it pays for services rendered, rather than a set fee.

Jail Chief Deputy Eric Hensley said this method used to be how the jail handled mental health services, but the county switched to the static amount because of the growing need for those services. 

According to Hensley, the current mental health population at the jail, meaning inmates who receive mental health services or medication, is roughly 60 to 65 percent.

Diana Lyles of CorrHealth said some patients have not been seen since first being referred for mental healthcare in November.  She said the systems of CorrHealth and MHMR “don’t talk to each other”, meaning referrals are either handed to an MHMR official when they come in or are left in an office.  Hensley said those referrals “just pile up on the desk” because MHMR has other patients to care for outside of the jail, and “the mental health is suffering in the jail because of that.”

Dorothy Morgan, former Washington County judge and the chair of the MHMR board, said the organization has been attempting to hire a full-time staffer to care for inmates.  She said its computer systems have also been having issues that prevent the use of telehealth services.  Lyles said the lack of services could lead to a preventable tragedy at the jail.  She said, “We’re one Sandra Bland incident away.”

Commissioner Kirk Hanath said this was the first time he has heard of these issues and questioned why he or another commissioner was not made aware of them sooner, saying communication needs to improve.  He said members of the court, as well as lead officials from MHMR and CorrHealth, need to hold a meeting together in order to determine how to move forward and what the deliverables and expectations are for MHMR.  He said if this does not work, then the county may consider going out for requests for proposals for mental health services. 


  1. This is where some of surplus money we have in Texas would be well spent. Behavioral needs are not being met in our state across the board. We need to be able to reach out to folks in the early stages meeting Behavioral health issues before things progress, people give up on themselves and others. Yes drugs abuse does remap the brain chemistry but can be hopefully be prevented.

  2. I think that shipped has sailed 90 days depending on MHMR which is understaffed,cut to the chase get rid of the MOU put out bids on the service needed for the inmates I mean you can spend a fortune on EMS cut a piece of that pie for the Sheriff. Please don’t drag your feet on this like you all did with the generator. Why wasn’t all the WCC made aware of this failure? We could already have the bids out. We have a new year now lets do better no need for heated anything get it done. MHMR does a great job with what they have to offer but we don’t want to give some Lawyer an excuse to get rich off a preventable like Diana Lyles mentioned.

  3. Mental health became a disaster in our state and nation when the notion of a an asylum became vilified (I’d like to cast blame but that’s really irrelevant to fixing the problem). An asylum is a good thing. It keeps the mental in a place other than the county jail. An asylum solves all sorts of issues that we have now, from overcrowding, recidivism (because the perp is mentally ill and out of control), less demand and distraction for our LE, and finally, real and permanent treatment for our growing pop of mental incompetent’s.

    Due our open borders allowed heavy drug trafficking (and we do allow it, like we allow cartels to exit), we should really have a mechanism for declaration of mental incompetency on an assembly line. If you didn’t know it, most of the permanent mental illness you see these days is caused from drug use, including marijuana. Most of the mental illness (was it 60+% of pop the article said?) cases are already on meds. Meds don’t work, if they did, you wouldn’t see them again and again in the jail.

    Why don’t the meds work? Because the mental incompetents don’t like to take them, they feel they don’t need to take them. Because in the land of identity matters, what is a self absorbed narcissist is acclaimed as the deeply introspective oppressed minority (and I’m not speaking to skin color), just being themselves.

  4. Now we need a different teleheath system an a full time staffer to overlook inmates. Omg we can go on forever. I’m sure Mr. Hanath has had this under control. We have more people in jail for “blunts” than anything. Update and work smart. You’ve been doing a great job far as I can see. Just get another K-9. He’l be happy to help.

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