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Sheriff Hernandez Encourages Continued Collaboration as Travis County Embarks on Development of a Diversion Center


Sheriff Hernandez Encourages Continued Collaboration as Travis County Embarks on Development of a Diversion Center

In May 2022, the Travis County Commissioners Court hired Dell Medical School to lead a 10-month study to develop solutions for the growing number of people who cycle in and out of the Travis County Jail due to mental health and/or substance use disorders. The study relied on input from a Steering Committee of local stakeholders, including Sheriff Sally Hernandez, to help guide the process.

A key committee recommendation is for Travis County to build a diversion center to offer these individuals appropriate mental health care instead of taking them to jail. On March 21, 2023, the Commissioners Court voted unanimously to begin the process of developing such a facility.

“A diversion center is important and needed but is only part of the solution for men and women with mental health needs,” said Sheriff Hernandez. “To work effectively, it has to function as a place to manage a crisis and then, relatively quickly, place people back in the community with housing, as well as mental and social supports, to keep them from coming right back.”

As highlighted in the Travis County Forensic Mental Health Project report, which will be presented to the Commissioners Court on Thursday, TCSO will continue to provide support as discussions continue.

“The men and women working in your Travis County correctional facilities know the people dealing with mental health needs by name. I want to be sure we keep our focus on the people we serve and not allow ourselves to be distracted by anything else,” said Sheriff Hernandez. “Individually, we simply cannot make a significant impact on a matter of this magnitude; it will take all of us working together and nothing less.”

Members of the Steering Committee, including their areas of expertise, are included below:
• Steve Strakowski, MD (Chair), Dell Medical School (Mental Health)
• Chief Joseph Chacon, Austin Police Department (Public Safety / Law Enforcement)
• David Evans, CEO, Integral Care (Public Mental Health Service Delivery)
• Quiana Fisher, MSW, ECHO (Homelessness)
• Delia Garza, County Attorney’s Office (Legal Process)
• Jose Garza, District Attorney’s Office (Legal Process)
• Kate Garza, Chief of Staff Commissioners Court (Commissioners Court Procedures)
• Dianna Grey, City of Austin (Homelessness)
• Hon. Guy Herman, Travis County Probably Court (Probate Law)
• Sheriff Sally Hernandez, Travis County Sheriff’s Office (Public Safety / Law Enforcement)
• Audrey Kuang, MD, CommUnityCare Health Centers (Federally Qualified Health Center)
• Parker LaCombe, Austin State Hospital, Director, Peer Support (Lived Experience, Peer Specialist)
• Hon. Tamara Needles, Travis County District Criminal Court (Criminal Law, SMART Program)
• Adeola Ogunkeyede, Public Defender’s Office (Legal Process)
• Pilar Sanchez, Commissioners Court Commissioner’s (Court Procedures)
• Reggie Smith, BPUSA (Lived Experience)
• Sandra Smith, PhD, Via Hope (Substance Use Treatment, Lived Experience)
• Terra Tucker, Alliance for Safety & Justice (Trauma, Crime Victims)

Submitted by:
• Kristen Dark, Sr. Public Information Officer (512) 854-4986
• Drew Knight, Public Information Specialist (512) 854-8426

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