Dallas County’s mental health transfer waitlist costing taxpayers $13 million, commissioner says

There are 400 inmates deemed incompetent who should be in a state facility sitting in the Dallas County jail. Some have been there for longer than two years.

The inmates are waiting to be transferred to a state mental health facility. The weight of it falls on the county's tax dollars.

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price says it’s costing the county $13 million to take care of 400 people who should be at either the Vernon State Hospital or the Rusk State Hospital, but they aren't because there are no available beds.

"We've got individuals that have been in custody for over 800 days. That’s two-and-a-half years now," Price said. "They're supposed to be in state custody."

In 2017, Dallas County had 130 inmates awaiting transfer to a state mental health hospital. Two year later, that number grew to 203. Now in 2022 following COVID-19, that number stands at 400, which is an increase of more than 200%.

Dallas County has more people waiting to be transferred than the largest county in Texas.

"We have 2.6 million people," Price said. "Harris County has 4.8 million people, and they have less people waiting to go to these facilities than does Dallas County." 

The mental health wait list of 400 and another 400 waiting for transfer to Texas prisons keeps pressing the jail population. Right now, it stands at about 5,900.

"We just want to know why," Price said. "Why are we being treated this way? It's not as though we're being reimbursed. Dallas taxpayers are picking up the tab. And at the end of the day, you're requiring us to swim buy. You've put our hands behind us."

The commissioner says he's alerting the Dallas delegation to the state legislature as well as state offices that they need some help getting those folks out of the Dallas County jail.

Price plans to present the Dallas County mental health transfer waitlist at Tuesday’s commissioners court. He wants Dallas lawmakers in Austin to put pressure on the state to find a way and a place to house its inmates who should not be in the Dallas County jail.