As an update we’d like to let you know that HB 3692 is currently with the Calendars Committee. We are working on getting this bill out of Calendars so it can be voted on by the House. When a bill goes to Calendars, sometimes it can end up sitting there for an extended period of time or not moving at all. To get it moving again, we are going to the offices of the Calendars Committee members and filling out a card to let them know that we support this bill and want it to be voted on by the House as soon as possible.
NAMI Texas and a number of other mental health advocates throughout Texas strongly support HB 3692, by Rep. Gallego, which was heard on April 5 and voted out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 14th.
The bill would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to modify a peace officer’s interaction with persons with mental illness and authorize an officer to issue a citation in lieu of arresting the person for misdemeanor offenses; the officer has the option to take the person to the hospital instead of the jail. The bill also would establish a suggestion of incompetency as the minimum threshold required for an informal inquiry in a trial.
The bill would also amend the Occupations Code to require a law enforcement officer to undergo training in mental illness. (Note: The Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education currently requires peace officers to undergo 40 hours of training on mental illness; HB3692 would modify the training for all police.)
We understand that opponents of this bill argue that it could have the potential to empower peace officers to arrest a person with mental illness simply for having a mental illness. This is not true. A person can only be arrested if they have committed an offense or pose a dangerous threat to themselves or others. This bill would empower peace officers to take that person to the hospital rather than taking them to jail.
As grassroots advocates we would like to encourage everyone to make sure that your opinions are heard. The members of the Calendars Committee can be found by clicking on this link: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/Membership.aspx