SAN ANTONIO — The plan was simple: instead of arresting the mentally ill for crimes, treat them for their illness.

Keep them out of the jails and emergency rooms and instead provide them with a one-stop shop where they can be treated with psychiatric care, counseling and rehabilitation. The plan in this Texas city was to help them heal.

This happened in 2008 when the Roberto L. Jimenez M.D. Restoration Center opened. Since that time, close to 50,000 people have been treated, saving the law enforcement more than 100,000 manpower hours that can now be spent on the streets, and saving taxpayers more than $50 million.

The center opened because of humane issues and not necessarily any financial ones that were plaguing the jails and hospitals. It came after Leon Evans was hired as president and CEO of the Center for Health Care Services in San Antonio. Previously he served as the director of community services for the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, and had become “aware of so many of these people becoming criminalized.

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Story written by: Kym Klass, Montgomery Advertiser