Smart Justice

Jails hold more individuals with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders than any other public institution.

Adults with untreated mental health and/or substance use disorders are eight times more likely to be incarcerated, often due to lack of access to appropriate crisis services and ongoing care. Of Texas inmates, 34% have a mental health need, and most have substance use disorders. The state of Texas spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to provide mental health services to these individuals.

Individuals with untreated behavioral health disorders (mental illness or substance use disorders) are eight times more likely to be incarcerated. MMHPI will work toward the goal that Texans with an urgent behavioral health crisis will receive needed treatment in a health care setting instead of in the criminal justice system. With its partners, MMHPI will identify and evaluate innovative, promising, and cost-effective policies and practices that safely divert adults with unmet mental health needs and substance use disorders from jail and prison settings into appropriate mental health treatment services.

Smart Justice Projects


Dallas County Assessment and Systems Transformation

The primary goal of this project—made possible by the Caruth Smart Justice Planning Grant—is to improve overall public safety by reducing the number of people with mental illness who receive treatment through involvement with law enforcement and the jail. This project is also expected to lead to improved health outcomes for individuals, better alignment of treatment needs with existing and future system capabilities, and decreased pressure on area emergency rooms.

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Mental Health Matters: In Criminal Justice

“One thing we’ve found is a lot of people don’t need me… to solve their problems. They just need somebody to listen to them. Somehow they’ve fallen off the road they were on and they lose direction. The only one true element and foundation that they’re all missing is one thing, and that’s hope.”
– Officer William Kasberg, SAPD Mental Health Unit

Mental Health Matters is a collaborative video project with the Mental Health Channel, KLRU, the Texas Tribune, and the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, that examines mental health-related policy issues through organizations, programs and individuals that are making a difference.