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Texas Lawmakers Review Mental Health Programs

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Both Republican and Democratic senators agree that Texas needs to do more to help the mentally ill.

Democratic Sen. Jose Rodriguez pointed out Wednesday that Texas ranks 50th in the nation in per capita funding for mental health programs. Republican Sen. Joan Huffman observed that so many mentally ill people have ended up in the Harris County jail that it has become the largest treatment facility for mental illness in the United States.

A top official, Michael Maples, reported that 10,000 people are currently on the waiting list for mental health treatment.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee met Wednesday to discuss what the Legislature can do to address the problem. While mental health programs are expensive, senators agreed that treating patients earlier will save money.


Kemp PD Eliminated

The city of Kemp, southeast of Dallas, has fired its Police Department. The City Council made the decision last night to eliminate the entire force, the Police Chief and four officers. Kemp officials say the town of 1100 residents just can’t afford a police department anymore.

The Dallas Morning News reports the Kaufman County Sheriff will pick up enforcement within the city limits.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Belo Garden Opens

The Belo Garden in downtown Dallas opens Thursday.

The garden at Commerce and Field Streets was once an asphalt parking lot.

It features trees and plants native to Texas, as well as walkways from stone quarried in Texas. And there’s what’s called an “interactive” fountain.

The garden is a partnership between the city of Dallas, the Belo Foundation and Maureen and Robert Decherd.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Kimbrough assigned to help Texas juvenile justice

A fired Texas A&M University executive who went on to help lead a state public safety agency has a new job in juvenile justice.

The Department of Public Safety on Tuesday temporarily reassigned Jay Kimbrough as a special assistant to the new Juvenile Justice Department. Recent violence has drawn attention to the six state-run youth prisons.

The close friend of Gov. Rick Perry is an ex-special master and conservator of the former Texas Youth Commission.

Kimbrough says he'll visit the units and that security is fundamental.

Kimbrough last September was dismissed as A&M's deputy chancellor. He brandished a pocketknife after being fired but later said he was joking.

Kimbrough early this year was named second-in-command at DPS. The 64-year-old ex-Marine makes $147,500 annually and will keep his DPS salary.


Fort Worth Rejects Smoking Ban On New Hires

Fort Worth is steering away from a ban on hiring smokers.

It was a city employee suggestion that the city go smoke free for a healthier workforce with lower health insurance claims and costs.

Karen Marshall, Human Resources Director told city council members that few public and private employers have changed hiring practices to exclude tobacco users. Instead they charge them more for insurance.

Marshall: Consistent with how a number of employers have addressed this issue, staff will recommend consideration of future insurance premium surcharges to encourage employee participation in wellness programs designed to curb unhealthy habits and conditions.

Marshall would like to add the surcharges in 2014. The Health Benefits Advisory Committee and the City Council would have to approve.

BJ Austin, KERA News

North Texas man accused of killing neighbor

Police say a North Texas man has been arrested after his neighbor was fatally shot while the two men argued.

Arlington police are trying to determine what sparked Tuesday night's killing. The name of the victim wasn't immediately released.

Police say 66-year-old Franklin Hudson of Arlington was jailed Wednesday on a murder charge. Bond has been set at $500,000. Arlington City Jail records did not list an attorney for Hudson, who police say fired at witnesses before being arrested.

No bystanders were hurt.


Texas preacher who shot lay pastor gets probation

A South Texas minister must serve probation for shooting another preacher in an alleged construction dispute.

A judge in Cuero on Tuesday sentenced Mark Stewart of Corpus Christi to 10 years of deferred adjudication probation. Stewart also must spend 90 days in jail, pay a $5,000 fine and pay the victim's medical bills.

Stewart pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for the 2010 shooting of lay pastor and contractor John Jackson of Cuero.

The Victoria Advocate reports Jackson allegedly punched Stewart before being shot. Stewart's lawyer says the dispute involves $70,000 paid for construction work that Jackson allegedly never completed.

Messages left with prosecutors and with Rising Star Baptist Church in Corpus Christi were not immediately returned Wednesday.

No publicly listed phone number could be found for Jackson.