Texas’ mental health system hit a grim milestone on Friday, according to sources at the Judicial Commission on Mental Health (JCMH), there are now at least 1,813 people waiting for a bed in a state mental hospital.
“I thought 21 days was a terribly long time for somebody to be stuck in our county jails,” said Roxanne Nelson, former Burnet County criminal magistrate judge. “Now, if someone told me they could get someone a bed in 21 days, I’d be thanking the lord.”
Nelson’s – who left her judgeship to serve on the state’s JCMH – outlook reflects the current state’s growing mental health crisis.
Experts say the crisis has been driven in part by lawmakers’ failure to grow state hospitals in tandem with the states’ ballooning population.
From 1964 to 2016, Texas’ population rose from 10.3 to 28.2 million people, almost tripling in just over 50 years, according to the Texas Council of Community Centers. Despite these numbers, the population growth rate in comparison to the number of inpatient psychiatric beds in Texas seems to be inversely proportional, having shrunk by almost 80%, dropping from 14,921 to 3,013 beds.
As reported by Dallas Observer, just in the past year, the waitlist nearly doubled, rising from 970 in 2020 to 1,813.
“We have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to reduce the waitlist.” said Krish Gundu, the Texas Jail Project’s executive director.