Mental Illness No Longer a Crime For More Than 10,000 People

Mental Illness No Longer a Crime For More Than 10,000 People

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg joined former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett today to announce that her office has now diverted more than 10,000 people struggling with mental illness away from the criminal justice system and into medical treatment.

Ogg’s mental health diversion program has diverted 10,082 people as of Jan. 31, 2024. The program, begun in September 2018, was one of the first of its kind in the nation and has been widely copied around the nation since then. The goal was – and is – to work with law enforcement to change the paradigm for the mentally ill by providing them with help and long-term treatment, which keeps our communities safer.

Emmett, who made mental health a major priority during his tenure as county judge and whose name adorns Harris County’s mental health diversion center, said he was proud to work with Ogg to ensure that the county’s jail is no longer the state’s largest mental health provider.

Ogg thanked law-enforcement officers and officials for embracing the program, noting that more than 87 law-enforcement agencies in Harris County now reroute non-violent offenders struggling with mental illness to the diversion center rather than jail.

The results are not only life changing, they are also beneficial to taxpayers. A recent study determined that, for every $1 spent on diversion, Harris County saves $5.54 on criminal justice costs.

“It’s important to remember that we in the District Attorney’s Office are genuinely committed to seek justice, not just convictions,” Ogg said. “We are people too. Our families, friends and neighbors are affected by mental illness as well, and we are committed to helping treat it rather than punish it.”