El Paso

County to allocate more funding for inmate mental health medication

County to allocate more funding for...

EL PASO, Texas - County commissioners unanimously approved more money for mental health medication for inmates.

The county has contracts in place with the Emergence Health Network and the University of Texas Medical Branch to provide medical and pharmacy services at both county jails.

When the contract was signed in 2015, the county allocated $100,000 for mental health medication. This estimate turned out to be too low, and the county ended up paying $350,000 for medicine last fiscal year.

On Monday, commissioners amended the contract to allocate up to $400,000 for meds per year. 

"The mentally ill who end up in our facility, frequently may only need access to pharmaceuticals or to other kind of mental healthcare treatment," county judge Veronica Escobar said.

The change in funding allocation comes after Commissioner's court requested an analysis to be done to get a more accurate assessment.

In the event that mental health drug costs exceed $400,000, the Emergence Health Network would reimburse the county for the amounts that exceeds the annual expense. 

"Hopefully over the long-term, what we want is for the jail to not house mental health patients who can be redirected or diverted to other services instead," Escobar said.

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