Texas' failure to fund mental health treatment leaves hundreds stranded in jails around the state
Published: January 4, 2012
Jeremy Weaver's adopted parents didn't know the severity of his condition when they took him in at just four weeks old. His biological mother drank while she was pregnant, leaving Weaver suffering from brain damage caused by prenatal alcohol exposure along with a host of other behavioral and psychiatric issues. Though he turns 19 years old in February, "He's basically functioning on a 9 and a half year old level," said his mother, Tabitha Weaver. "We've always had extreme behavioral problems with him."
With an IQ of 55, putting him in the range of mild mental retardation, Jeremy Weaver also has a history of psychosis, his mother says. He spent years at the Mission Road Developmental Center in San Antonio until he aged out at 18 and was no longer eligible for care. After trying and failing to get Weaver into a group home in New Braunfels, where he was turned away due to a long waiting list, he wound up back near Victoria with his parents. His mother says she struggled to find adequate, specialized care. "There was just nothing here. We looked everywhere but there were no options." A court granted Weaver's parents full guardianship when he turned 18.
Police arrested Weaver in May when two boys in his neighborhood claimed he touched them inappropriately, charges his mother vehemently disputes. Facing multiple counts of indecency with a child by contact, a judge declared Weaver incompetent to stand trial in July, ordering him into state hospital treatment. In a competency evaluation filed with the court, Dr. Joel Kutnick described Weaver as having problems performing simple math. In addition he noted: "He doesn't know exactly why he is in jail and he doesn't remember how long he has been in jail. … The defendant does not have the cognitive ability to be competent to stand trial. There is a good possibility he will never be competent."
Despite the order, Weaver waited in jail for over five months after being declared incompetent. He lost more than 30 pounds in jail and his behavior grew increasingly erratic, his mother says. "Mentally and physically, we were losing him," she said. "He had no business being in jail for that long. … He was just deteriorating."
Weaver was finally transferred to the Vernon State Hospital in late December, and his mother hopes to eventually have him placed in the Mexia State Supported Living Center for the developmentally disabled for long-term care.
In 2011, lawmakers saw a concerted pushback from both county jail officials and mental health advocates as the Lege considered severe cuts to state mental health care services. The tumult was loud and persistent enough to keep lawmakers from dolling out across-the-board reductions as deep as 20 percent, as had been proposed by a chorus of tax-averse conservative lawmakers at the start of the session. Advocates warned that defendants with serious mental illness already pack the jails, and that further cuts would only exacerbate the growing crisis.
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