Friday, July 3, 2009

County planning to build forensic mental hospital

By Howard Roden

Updated: 06.29.09

A 120-bed forensic mental hospital could be operating in Montgomery County by early 2011, county commissioners announced Monday. To be built adjacent to the Joe Corley Detention Facility in north Conroe, the hospital will ease a statewide demand for forensic psychiatric care, Precinct Commissioner Ed Chance said. It also will ease a financial burden for the county as it increases manpower and money to transport psychiatric cases to the Rusk facility in East Texas, he said.

In 2006, a round trip to Rusk with two deputies and a patient cost about $250. The county expended around $50,000 on those trips that same year. “Saving those lost hours is a big issue,” Chance said. “It will allow our law enforcement to stay closer to our courts and, in the process, generate a substantial increase in jobs and the local economy.”

The project became reality during the 81st session of the state Legislature when Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, succeeded in getting an appropriation included in the Texas Health and Human Services budget. “It’s a great opportunity for us to have this state-of-the-art facility close to home,” Williams said. “I think it solves a number of problems for the (Houston) region. With the remote location of the Rusk facility, Montgomery and Harris counties send more forensic cases than the other 25 counties of the region combined.”

Williams said that when the Rusk forensic mental hospital is at capacity, some of its patients are transferred to the facility in Vernon, which is West Texas.
Montgomery County Judge Alan B. Sadler said the forensic mental hospital, which will be on a four- to five-acre site at an estimated cost of $30 million to $35 million, should have an immediate impact on the local needs. “On any given day, one-third of our county inmates are in need of mental health assistance,” he said. “In my opinion, (the hospital) will be full in six months or less of Montgomery County patients.”

Like the Joe Corley facility, which houses U.S. Marshals and federal immigration inmates, the forensic mental hospital will be financed through revenue bonds, Chance said. Although a company has not been chosen to design and build the facility, the county already has hired GEO Group to operate the facility, Chance said. Florida-based GEO operates the Corley facility.

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