Welcome to Our Website

Mental Health and Jail Diversion Bureau

1200 Baker Street Jail

Crisis Intervention Response Team

Jail Population Management

Training: Family Member Presentation

701 San Jacinto Street Jail

Computer Simulated Scenario Based Training

Inmate Education

Message From The Sheriff


Sheriff Ed Gonzalez


Welcome to the website of the Mental Health and Jail Diversion Bureau. The Harris County Sheriff's Office operates the nation's fourth-largest jail, with an inmate population approaching 9,000. One-quarter of these inmates suffer from some form of mental illness. On a daily basis the Harris County Jail houses more inmates on psychotropic medication than any single mental hospital in Texas. In an effort to address the large number of mentally ill in the jail and the inmate population in general, I formed this bureau immediately after being elected sheriff. Managed by Major Mike Lee, the bureau coordinates and oversees all mental health and jail diversion issues throughout the agency. The programs/initiatives in this bureau include the following: chaplaincy, graffiti abatement, re-entry, jail population management, vocational training, mental health training, Homeless Outreach Team, and the Crisis Intervention Response Team.

Although some inmates with mental illness need to be in jail, many are incarcerated for nonviolent traffic, property, drug, or public order offenses and would be better served receiving mental health treatment. Thus, we are looking at jail diversion at every level, for all inmates. To accomplish this we are working closely with our local criminal justice and behavioral health partners to develop appropriate jail diversion strategies and training.

I hope you find this website helpful and informative. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.

Message From The Bureau Major

Major Mike Lee


I am honored to have been selected by Sheriff Gonzalez as the manager of the agency's first-ever Mental Health and Jail Diversion Bureau. Responding to and caring for the mentally ill is one of the most challenging, difficult, and important criminal justice issues today. Sheriff Gonzalez and I are committed to making the Harris County Sheriff's Office the model for specialized response strategies for the mentally ill and for innovative jail diversion. We are very excited about the programs we currently have and initiatives that are in development that will be implemented in the near future. We will share these initiatives with you on this website.

A key to being successful in this area is collaboration with your local mental health and criminal justice entities. We are very fortunate to have developed a very close working relationship with the following:

  • Local mental health authority
  • District attorney's office
  • Courts
  • Commissioners court
  • Behavioral health organizations in Houston/Harris County

We are working as a team to address these challenges. We look forward to hearing from you. Let us know if we can help in any way. Each section has a Contact Us box at the bottom of the page for the person over that program/initiative.

Sheriff Dennis Wilson

Teen Earns Eagle Scout Working with Homeless Outreach Team

Brandon J. Hoff, Jr


Brandon is a 15-year-old 10th-grader who earned his Eagle Scout by working with the Homeless Outreach Team. Brandon  assembled 500 personal care hygiene kits. These kits are passed out to homeless individuals. Brandon chose this project after hearing about  the Homeless Outreach Team on a local NPR radio show and recognized the need to serve those he saw in his own community as well as throughout the Houston area.

Brandon is with Troop 179 at St. Aidan's Episcopal Church in Cypress, TX. He was honored by Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, members of the Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion, and the Homeless Outreach Team on Monday, October 16, 2017.

Brandon hopes to continue to serve his troop and community through high school before studying engineering in Texas or Louisiana. Brandon loves to play guitar and is active in school clubs and his church.

Brandon being presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. In the picture are the hygiene kits Brandon assembled.

Significant Initiatives

Senate Bill 1185

Senate Bill 1185 by Texas State Senator  Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, created a jail diversion program that connects mentally ill inmates with social, clinical, housing and welfare services during the first weeks after the person's release from jail. The program was implemented by Harris County officials and the Texas Department of State Health Services. It’s part of a major effort to increase spending on, and treatment for, those with mental illness in Texas. For the first time in at least a decade, lawmakers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars more on mental health services.

“I’m hoping again to divert as many folks as we can out of the criminal justice system and into the mental health treatment system, where they can get the help that they need for their illness,” Huffman said.

Click on Senate Bill 1185 above to link to a legislative report on the program.


Approximately one-third of heroin users pass through correctional facilities annually in the U.S. Nearly 65 percent of the 2.3 million U.S. prison inmates meet the medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction, yet only 11 percent receive treatment during their incarceration. In addition, more than half of those on parole or probation continue to go untreated.

“The opioid epidemic has put a growing strain on our criminal justice system where individuals struggling with opioid addiction are in need of treatment. Since our prisons and criminal justice system are among the largest providers of addiction services in the country, it is critical that we expand the range of medication treatment options available to this population and connect people to community-based treatment programs,” commented Sheriff James M. Cummings of Barnstable County, Mass. “In Barnstable, we’ve had success with VIVITROL as an important component of our program, which also includes counseling and other support services essential for individuals to successfully recover and re-enter the community. VIVITROL may play an important role in the criminal justice system, as it is a long-acting, non-narcotic, non-addictive opioid antagonist with no known abuse or diversion potential.”

The proposal was approved by Harris County Commissioners' Court on September 26th. Click on Vivitrol above to learn more about the Harris County Sheriff's Office Vivitrol pilot program.


Telepsychiatry Pilot

The Harris County Sheriff's Office is piloting what we believe is the only type of its program in the nation. We will be utilizing telepsychiatry to assist patrol deputies responding to individuals in serious mental health crises. The primary partner in this pilot is JSA Health Corporation.

Other partners include Verizon Wireless, Harris County Emergency Corps., and Cloud 9.

The proposal was approved by Harris County Commissioners' Court on September 12th. Click on Telepsychiatry at the top to view a PDF of the proposal for this pilot program.


Homeless Outreach Team Initiative

The Harris County Sheriff's Office Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) responded to a request by Precinct Four constables to clean up a homeless encampment under a bridge on Cypress Creek. The constables reported 10 to 15 homeless people living there. Area businesses and residents complained some of the homeless consumed alcohol and/or marijuana at night. The store owners and residents further stated several teenagers often met under the bridge to smoke marijuana.

Click on Homeless Outreach Team at the top to go to their page and see more pictures of the cleanup and other initiatives by HOT.


Diversion Efforts Effective

Did You Know ...

Mentally ill individuals hospitalized in the United States in 1955 (1)

Mentally ill individuals hospitalized in the United States in 2015 (2)

Number of roundtrip miles by the Hereford (TX) Police Department in the summer of 2016 transporting a mental health consumer (3)

It was found that Houston Police Department CIT officers were 82 percent less likely to use their guns compared to non-CIT officers (Northwestern University 2014) (4)

Estimated percent of Texas inmate population with SERIOUS mental illness (Treatment Advocacy Center 2012) (5)

Percentage of adult population in the United States with serious mental illnesses (6)

(1)   Timeline: Treatments for Mental Illness, PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh//amex/nash/timeline/timeline2.html

(2)   Ana Swanson, A Shocking Number of Mentally Ill Americans End Up in Prison Instead of Treatment, WASH. POST: WONKBLOG (Apr. 30, 2015), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/30/a-shocking-number-of-mentally-ill-americans-end-up-in-prisons-instead-of-psychiatric-hospitals/?utm_term=.7069668fdf98.

(3)   E-mail from Kristen Williams, Captain, Hereford Police Dep't, to Frank M. Webb

(4)   Anthony L. Colucci, JohnPatrick McCleary, and Yan Jie Ng, Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences Houston Texas Police Department Project on Officer-Involved Shooting. Northwestern University, June 04, 2014.

(5)   E. Fuller Torrey, No Room At The Inn: Trends and Consequences of Closing Public Psychiatric Hospitals 2005 - 2010, at 6 (2012), www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/storage/documens/no_room_at_the_inn-2010.pdf.

(6)   National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov.

Serious Mental Illnesses: Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression, Brief Psychotic Disorder. (Treatment Advocacy Center)

Notable Quotes

Law enforcement officers in Houston and Harris County often provide the first response to the needs of our residents with mental disabilities. I am proud that their enhanced crisis training enables them to treat mentally ill and disabled people with dignity and respect while also protecting the public. The training is essential in diverting people away from jail and into cost-effective mental health services.

Ed Emmett

County Judge, Harris County Texas

The District Attorney’s Office recognizes that mental illness is a public health concern, but it has also become a justice system crisis.  With approximately one quarter of all criminal offenders affected by some form of mental illness, it is more important than ever for prosecutors, law enforcement, and the medical community to work together to keep the community safe.  The HCSO Office of Mental Health Policy and Jail Diversion Projects serves the people of Harris County effectively by seeking treatment options for mentally ill offenders arrested for minor, non-violent crimes, while separating those who are dangerous from society until treatment can be provided.  In doing so, justice is better served for crime victims, the accused and our community.

Kim Ogg

District Attorney, Harris County District Attorney's Office

I can think of no other area more important in the criminal justice process than determining the mental health status of those who find themselves 'a citizen arrested.' The recognition by a first responder of a person in a mental health crisis underscores how far we have come in the last few years with so much still to be accomplished. This program [Office of Mental Health Policy and Jail Diversion Projects] goes a long way in furthering the mission of education and awareness about mental illness. I applaud the sheriff's office for their efforts.

George Parnham

Attorney, Parnham & Associates

The Sheriff's Office should be commended for its decision to invest in the agency's first-ever Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion to address the crisis issue of mental illness in jails and on our streets. An increasing number of jurisdictions in recent years have turned to Police-Mental Health Collaboration (PMHC) programs to safely and effectively respond to people with mental illnesses in their communities. An essential component of a PMHC is training, and I am heartened to see leadership take a crucial step in preparing staff by providing a 40-hour CIT class to new deputies and detention officers. PMHCs provide a framework for success, and this community will no doubt reap positive rewards for years to come.

Nicola Smith-Kea, MSc., M.A.

Senior Policy Analyst, Council of State Governments Justice Center

The Need for Jail Diversion

Out of the 3.1 million adults in Harris County, 516,362 have a mental illness.

Providing community-based services to individuals with mental illness and high criminogenic risk factors ranges from about $22 to $42 per day. Diverting individuals from jails and linking them to community-based services yields cost effective, positive treatment outcomes in the least restrictive environment.

Incarcerated individuals with a mental illness have a higher rate of recidivism compared to the general population. On average, those with a mental illness are arrested six times more often than those without a mental illness.

Once incarcerated, offenders with a mental illness remain in jail for longer periods, serving 40 percent more days of their sentences compared to other inmates.

The costs associated with frequent incarceration and longer length of stays for individuals with mental illness is high. The average cost per day in a mental health unit in the Harris County Jail is $232 per day compared to $57 per day for the general population.

Treatment in jail settings is environmentally restrictive and available mental health services are limited. Typical costs associated with mental health treatment in jails are due to psychotropic medications and oversight by medical staff.

Source: Report on the Harris County Mental Health Jail Diversion Pilot Program for Fiscal Year 2016. Health and Human Services Commission, February 2017.


The information provided on this website is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. While we endeavor to provide up-to-date and correct information, we make no representations or warranties of the completeness or accuracy of this website. We are not responsible for the content of websites linked to this website.