Weekly County Spotlight - Tom Green County
Tom Green County constitutes one of the easternmost counties served by the Region 9 Prevention Resource Center and the Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. It is also one of the most populous counties of Region 9 with a population of 118,386. It’s county seat is San Angelo which is the home of Angelo State University, a member of the Texas Tech University System. The University alone constitutes approximately 10% of the county’s population.
Despite it’s somewhat rural location in North-Central Texas, the city of San Angelo, as well as Tom Green County, strive to keep up with modern trends. Unfortunately, one such modern trend is drug use and subsequent arrests. As the graph shows, approximately 56% of the crimes prosecuted in Tom Green County directly involve substance use (i.e., DWI and Drug Offenses). Of the remainder of the crimes committed, it is likely that a portion of them also indirectly involve drugs and/or alcohol. However, because the individuals were not arrested for a drug offense or a DWI, the exact numbers are unknown. When, you look at the number of instances, things get a little more worrisome. There were almost 1,500 instances of individuals, both juvenile and adult, being prosecuted for either a drug offense or a DWI.
Thankfully, the county of Tom Green and the city of San Angelo are making efforts to combat these issues. Recently, the Commissioners of Tom Green County have approved the Concho Valley MHMR to receive funding for a Concho Valley Behavioral Health Court Program. In the 2017 Legislature, the Texas Senate passed SB 292. This bill allows for provisions of funds to create programs designed to reduce incarceration, recidivism, and arrest of individuals with mental illness. In May, the Tom Green County Commissioner’s Court approved the application for such funding to create the Concho Valley Behavioral Health Court Program. Many larger counties in Texas, such as Bexar County, Travis County, and Harris County already have behavioral health court programs and/or mental health diversion programs. These programs are geared toward keeping individuals with mental issues out of jail, thereby reducing the cost of incarceration. The programs that currently exist in other counties do this by providing respite care to individuals in crisis, mental health bond for individuals who have been arrested, and/or access to resources in the community so that they may get back on track. In addition, these programs provide treatment for substance use and/or mental health issues through counseling and medication rather than incarceration. As much substance abuse is related to mental health issues, it is hopeful that this program will reduce the number of drug crimes, and other crimes, in Tom Green county.
Published June 4, 2018.