The Sandra Bland Act addresses multiple issues for criminal justice in Texas, including identification of defendants suspected of having a mental health or intellectual disability, as well as criteria for potential diversion to treatment instead of jail.
There are other aspects of the Act that address jail safety, officer training, and data collection. It specifically includes a provision on prisoner safety that includes requirements to give prisoners the ability to access a mental health professional at the jail through a telemental health service 24 hours a day.
The Challenge – Access to
Employing onsite psychiatric personnel is costly and inefficient, when their services may not be required for hours or days at a time. With the Act’s requirement for 24-hour access to telemental health, multiple providers are needed for adequate coverage. The reality is that there is a significant shortage of psychiatric specialists across Texas. Even if onsite providers are preferred, it may not be possible to find one.
Providing transportation to see psychiatrists and other behavioral health professionals to meet the requirement could be cost prohibitive, logistically challenging, and potentially risky.
Video equipment required to provide connections to mental health care professionals will need to be purchased.