Dennis Wilson: ‘a voice for those with no voice’
By Roxanne McKnight
Because of anticipated changes in the way Texas handles inmates with mental health issues, Limestone County Sheriff Dennis Wilson has been in Austin often lately trying to influence the changes in ways that will benefit both law enforcement and inmates.
Wilson spoke to the Mexia Lions Club recently on proposed legislation being considered by the Texas Legislature. He is a member of several law enforcement groups, including the Sheriff’s Association of Texas. He also sits on several committees involving mental health. He is a state board member for the Texas Council of Governments, and represents the Heart of Texas MHMR Service Center, in Waco.
Because the legislature only meets every two years and then only for 140 days, there is a flurry of activity right now in the current 83rd legislative session by those who want changes made to the law. Of the 8,810 bills that have been filed, the Texas Council is monitoring 360 of them, Wilson said.
He told the audience he and County Judge Daniel Burkeen have made several trips to Austin to testify especially on behalf of House bills 205 and 2401, which deal with the treatment of mental health issues.
House Bill 205 would require state mental hospitals to allocate a separate, minimum number of forensic beds, that is, beds for those with mental issues who have been implicated in criminal activity. House Bill 2401 would provide community-based mental health care including 24-hour screening, rapid stabilization services, residential services, family support, case management and other services to provide an alternative to in-patient hospitalization.