Hays County mental health court has taken no cases more than a year after created

Hays

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Hays County confirms its mental health court that commissioners voted to create more than a year ago has not taken a single case. 

Commissioners created the court in December 2019. It sets out to take on criminal misdemeanor and felony cases, where mental health might have played a role. 

Hays County Commissioner for Precinct 3 Lon Shell blames COVID-19 and other logistics for the delay in taking cases. 

Activist Jordan Buckley with Mano Amiga said it has taken too long. 

“This is one of the many reforms that county officials have promised to do, and yet just never follow through on,” Buckley said. “It seems to me that county officials sit on their hands, except when they extract them to pat themselves on the back publicly, and we’re sick of it.”

Shell said he does understand frustrations. 

“I share the concern,” Shell said. 

According to Shell, the pandemic is not the only thing that put plans for the court on hold. 

“The judge that was going to run that mental health court obviously did not win her election,” he said. “The county courts-at-law are a little bit different, [and] that might have provided even a little bit of a slower start.”

The newly-elected Hays County courts-at-law No. 3 Judge Millie Thompson replaced Tacie Zelhart. Thompson said she is interested in taking over the mental health court docket. However, Hays County courts-at-law No. 2 Judge and Administrative Judge Chris Johnson said Hays County’s 453rd District Court Judge, Sherri Tibbe, is also interested in taking over the docket. 

Johnson said he and two other judges have to vote on who will be appointed. He told KXAN one judge is out sick right now. 

“We’re ready for them to actually follow through on their word, and do what they say they’re going to do,” Buckley said. 

Hays County Attorney Mark Kennedy said they may need a coordinator to manage the docket, which would cost more money. But, Kennedy said they could cover that through grants.

The Hays County Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission will meet Wednesday to figure out what exactly is needed moving forward, according to Shell. 

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