AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the last several years, Joy Jiles’ 39-year-old son, Miguel, has cycled in and out of jail. He has schizophrenia and his mom worries without more readily available mental health resources, the cycle is going to continue.

“I love my son so they’re gonna call me, I’m gonna do everything that I can in my power to try and help him but I just feel like other things need to be done,” Jiles said. Her son is in jail right now, expected to be released over the next few months.

Joy Jiles holds up a photo of her 39-year-old son, Miguel
Joy Jiles holds up a photo of her 39-year-old son, Miguel, who is in the Travis County Jail. Miguel suffers from a severe mental health illness (KXAN photo/Grace Reader)

Next week, Travis County leaders are working on providing resources for people like Miguel. Travis County is in the beginning stages of creating a mental health diversion program and diversion center so that instead of going to jail, some people who have committed non-violent offenses would get mental health and substance use care instead.

Next week, everyone with a stake in that project will meet to hash out the specifics of the program, including possible funding sources.

“The building is very expensive, but is something that could be done through a bond for example, the ongoing expenses are harder for local governments to pay for because of the way the legislature has capped ongoing revenue for cities and counties,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said.

That’s all part of the long-term vision, but Brown wants to start a pilot program before that diversion center is even built. As a part of that, the county could use one of its own buildings to treat a handful of people who would otherwise be in jail.

“There are a lot of options and obviously a ton of need, but we want to do something with this pilot to where it’s going to help us figure out long term what we’re going to be doing here in Travis County,” Brown said.

For Jiles, the idea that her son might have access to mental health treatment he desperately needs instead of cycling in and out of jail is a glimmer of hope in what has been a very painful few years.

“What do we do? Jail is not the answer.”