Smith County commissioners on Tuesday accepted a grant to hire an advocate to help with those struggling with mental health in the county jail.

The grant from Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health for the Community Diversion Coordinator Pilot Program effectively allows the county to hire someone as an advocate for individuals in the county jail dealing with mental health issues.

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said jails across the country and Texas have problems when it comes to mental health. There are a large number of entities involved in the process of helping people face mental health crises in jail, making it more difficult.

There is a need for a professional that can help navigate the different entities involved, Moran said.

The professionals can help those incarcerated with mental health issues understand what resources are available and connect them to said resources and help them move through the judicial process that takes into consideration their alleged crime and mental health, Moran explained.

“If we have an advocate in the middle of that, that is focused on trying to, on a daily basis, determine what next needs to happen in the process to help that person, to continue to push that process then we might be able to help a few extra people get out of our county jail when they don’t need to be or receive services as they exit,” he said.

Moran added he believes this is a great way to help those with mental health issues divert from the county jail.

“The hope is that we will see a lot of diversion and a lot of assistance to folks who are dealing with some tough mental health issues,” he said. “Oftentimes they get lost in the shuffle simply because they don’t have an advocate standing by them on a day to day, and this position will help with that.”

The grant is a total of $171,000 for a two-year span of time and is of no cost to the county. The funding will go mostly towards two years of salary, wages and bonuses. Some will be used for office space, equipment, training and other smaller things that are needed for the position, Moran said.

The county wants to fill the position by Oct. 1. The goal is to have the job posted no later than next week so they can get the process rolling and aid those in jail with mental health issues.


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