Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 361-366

First online:

Services for offenders with mental impairments: A Texas model

  • William B. SchnappAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Texas Health Sciences Center
  • , Tuan NguyenAffiliated withMental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County
  • , Jay JohnsonAffiliated withUniversity of Texas School of Public Health at HoustonResearch and Planning, Corp.

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The Texas Council on Offenders with Mental Impairments stands as a model for envisioning and implementing the resolutions to problems of service development and delivery to offenders with mental impairments. Acting upon an uncommon sensitivity to the range of problems experienced by persons incarcerated with mental impairments, consumer groups, elected officials, and agency administrators moved to create the Council. The Council's coalition membership cuts across disciplines and agencies to promote close, effective coordination and collaboration. Most importantly, the Council was conceived, organized, mobilized, and continues to operate with advocacy as its primary guiding principle.

The Texas Council on Offenders with Mental Impairments is an exemplary experiment in promoting the development and delivery of services for offenders with mental impairments specifically, and special populations generally. It has (1) battled stigma through dissemination of accurate and timely research information; (2) advocated for innovative interventions for its target populations; (3) engaged the leadership and commitment of government officials around its legislative initiatives; and (4) fostered a continuum of services through coordinating the activities of separate agencies and different disciplines. It deserves the continued attention of those interested in studying, and those concerned with ameliorating, the problems of special populations, the development and administration of service organizations, and the operation of state government.

Under difficult circumstances and within a context of a clear reticence among some state officials to support public mental health initiatives, any such initiatives undertaken must be aimed toward success at their inception. The factors that effected the Council's initial efforts toward success can be summarized briefly as: (1) comprehensive mandates and the latitude to intervene; (2) a broad-based interagency constituency; (3) legislative backing; and, above all, (4) the authority to generate and distribute funds (Steadman, McCarty, & Mossissey, 1989).