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Dallas County hopes a consultant will convince police to bring mentally ill to 'deflection center'

Entrance to a one story building with a sand colored stone exterior and white patio overhang.
Yfat Yossifor
The entrance to the Deflection Center on the Homeward Bound campus Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, in Dallas. The center provides an alternative to jail for nonviolent persons picked up for criminal trespass.

The county has a brand-new center for people needing mental health care. They want police officers to use it more to keep people from sitting in jail.

Police officers throughout Dallas County can take people to the Deflection Center at Homeward Bound in Southern Dallas if they’re accused of nonviolent criminal trespass. There, they can get mental health care, food, and a shower.

But numbers since the center opened last year have been much lower than officials hoped. It’s on track to be more than two hundred clients short of its first-year goal.

In response, Dallas County Commissioners earlier this week approved funding for a consultant to give presentations to local police officers at the start of morning and afternoon shifts. This person will also create training videos “on how to assess, offer, and transfer custody” to the center. He or she will also make a video about the Deflection Center aimed at the broader public.

Dallas County has struggled with a consistently high jail population. Commissioner John Wiley Price said at a Tuesday meeting that the jail costs the county almost $12 million each month.

The hope of the Deflection Center is that people accused of criminal trespass — many of whom are homeless — can get mental health care and other support and avoid sitting in jail.

About half the people who enter the Dallas County Jail have an identified mental health need.

Commissioner Elba Garcia said the county’s Criminal Justice Advisory Board sent letters to cities, police departments, associations, and community groups about the Deflection Center.

“I have to say that I got a lot of people responding back, ‘oh we didn’t know about this,’” Garcia said. “And I know Commissioner Price has talked about this, I know the DA has talked about it, I know that many of the criminal justice groups that I belong to — I have heard presentations about this.”

The consultant will cost an estimated $18,610. The money comes a fund within District Attorney John Creuzot’s office, which asked for the consultant.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.