Working together to make a difference
Sen. John Cornyn met with local leaders and policy experts to review progresses made in Galveston County’s efforts of improving mental healthcare in the community and its relationship to the criminal justice system.
en. John Cornyn arrived at the Galveston County Justice Center last month for a roundtable talk with local leaders and policy experts to discuss how federal mental health initiatives spearheaded by him could help Galveston County facilitate mental healthcare and meet its goals in service availability. Included in the discussion were Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, Senior Fellow for Justice Policy at Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute Dr. Tony Fabelo, Galveston County Commissioner and Chair of the County and Judicial Criminal Justice Coordinating Advisory Council Stephen Holmes, Senior
Presiding Judge for the 405th District Court and Designated Judge of the Galveston County Mental Health Court Judge Wayne Mallia, Commander of the Mental Health Division of the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office Jaime Castro and Galveston Police Chief Vernon L. Hale. Cornyn has been active in pushing for legislation in mental health care long before the mass shooting tragedies of Santa Fe High School and the El Paso Walmart, introducing the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act in 2015 and authoring the 21st Century Cures Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2016. Cornyn said that during the
past few years he has realized that the United States has “lost the safety net for people in mental health crises.” “Some of our laws make it very difficult to get access to mental health. For example, if you have somebody in your family whose an adult, it’s almost impossible to get them to comply with the doctor’s orders if they say, ‘I don’t want to,’” Cornyn said. Cornyn said mental health has become a “chronic and pervasive challenge for our country” and the government must facilitate alternatives to the current situation of many individuals suffering from mental illness being held in jail for lack of adequate resources for their care.
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Photos and story by Joshua Truksa
Henry said devising a way to handle issues of mental illness in court is a major challenge faced by every county and parish in the country. Henry said it was important that mental illness be talked about, treated like any other illness and steps taken to mitigate the possibilities of those suffering from mental illness being held in jail. “I, along with every other county jail in the United States, run the worst mental healthcare facility that you could possibly run. We’d be on 60 Minutes if we weren’t the county government for running a terrible operation,” Henry said, adding that Galveston County faces the common problem of short-