Just as in Dallas, county jails in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, N.M., Memphis, Baltimore, Long Island, N.Y., and elsewhere have been cited for egregious problems in the delivery of health care, particularly to the mentally ill, says the Dallas Morning News. Dallas is the only one so far, not to have the federal government order widespread improvements under threat of a lawsuit. County officials say they have recognized the jail’s ills and are moving to fix them.
But many improvements the Justice Department forced on other counties are not in place at the Dallas County Jail. Mental-health advocates say Dallas would be ripe for a federal investigation. One county commissioner says that to make fixes, it will take time, money, and a struggle against a tight market for nurses. “We’re trying to play catch-up,” he said. “We didn’t get into this quagmire overnight, and we won’t get out of it overnight. It’s going to take dollars.” Justice Department intervention has led to changes in other places. “It moved the improvements along more quickly,” said Richard Van Horn, president of the Mental Health Association of Greater Los Angeles. “If you get the DOJ to come in, it will definitely improve your mental health care in the jail.” The Los Angeles jail is still the single largest mental hospital in the nation. A newly passed California initiative charges a 1 percent income tax on those with incomes exceeding $1 million to raise more money for mental health care, which could help jails.