YOUNG CO. (KFDX/KJTL) – Young County Sheriff Travis Babcock has teamed up with the city of Olney and Jack County Judge Keith Umphress on an issue they say is causing a snowball effect.

“Well, there’s a crisis in rural Texas, and that’s mental health,” said Umphress.

Jails in rural counties across Texas are being faced with a rising mental health crisis among inmates.

“I walk around my jail every day, and I see what’s going on. I know what’s going on. They tell me what’s going on. We had, at one time, 40% of our inmates were MHMR patients,” Babcock said.

“What’s happened across the state of Texas is that rural county jails, like mine and Jack and Young County, become a facility, a warehouse, a place to house those that are in a mental health crisis,” Umphress said.

For the past five years, Umphress said the state has attempted to put systems in place, but the issue is an everyday occurrence.

“They’re deteriorating in my opinion, and it’s sad that the state has put this pressure on the rural counties to do this, but it’s in our hands now, and we have to do something about it,” Babcock said.

With legislation in the 88th session, lack of law enforcement trained to approach mental health issues, a shortage of beds in health facilities, and the state’s delayed responses, Umphress says has caused a issues in jails.

“If a person is facing criminal charges for a misdemeanor, the most we can hold them by law, is for a year. We have individuals waiting for a forensic bed because the crime that’s been committed are being held in our county jails for longer than what we are allowed to actually punish them,” Umphress said.

It can take over 360 days to get into a forensic bed. Their goal is to have all law enforcement officers trained in mental health, and ultimately hold a crisis intervention team.

“When you call 911, we will have a mental health trained officer, a social worker, and an EMS, somebody that’s trained to provide medical assistance that will be able to respond to try to help somebody that’s in a mental health crisis,” Umphress said.

Five Young County deputies are mental health officers. Sheriff Babcock and Judge Umphress both ask for the community to reach out to state representatives and be vocal about the crisis. As of right now, they are working on using space at the Jack County jail to convert into a health facility for inmates there and in surrounding areas.