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Emphasis on improving outcomes for those with mental illness

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 15 July 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2857

Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook, bottom right, visits with Assistant Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Kathleen Pokluda, bottom left, along with, from left in back, deputy Fernando Ortiz and corrections officers Terry Hargrove and Brandon McBay at the Williamson County sheriff’s office in Georgetown. I have written about the work of our Mobile Outreach Team assisting those in mental crisis situations who now works in concert with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services for 24/7 coverage throughout the county.

I’ve written about the mental health work in our courts, balancing the law with an individualized approach to best suit the accused suffering from mental illness.

Soon, coming to us all will be the response “911, do you need police, fire, EMS or mental health services?” I’ll write about this later this year.

Six months in, how has our sheriff’s office evolved to appropriately work with those suffering from mental health challenges?

Individuals with mental illness are inordinately represented in arrests and incarcerations in our country’s jails.

Mike Gleason campaigned in 2016 to be our sheriff as the candidate with a demonstrated background of compassionate mental health work both inside and outside law enforcement. Has that translated into a kinder workforce in Williamson County’s patrols and jail?

Below is a letter from an inmate with mental illness to his mom that she shared with Sheriff Gleason and allowed me to share here:

ok mama heres my letter, now just sayin, idk the sheriffs name but here we go,

to the sheriff of williamson county, ... i am an inmate of the county jail and at the time of this letter i will have been here 37 days, i must give praise where it is due sir/ ma'am, this is my 2nd stay in your facility however i am extremely surprised that it has changed so much since my 1st visit. during my st stay, which was 88 days, i witnessed 18 people get tazed, not that im able to say they deserved it or not but this time im glad to say that not 1 individual has been tazed, your CO's and deputeys have more compassion 

Commissioner Cook Presents Juneteenth Proclamation

Approved by Commissioners Court Tuesday, June 15

  • 18 June 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3042

WHEREAS, Juneteenth recognizes that on June 19, 1865, almost three years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Union General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston the freedom of all slaves throughout Texas with these words, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,”; and

WHEREAS, Juneteenth has been a long-time, official state holiday honoring the courageous Black Texans who have long struggled for civil rights in the 156 years since General Granger’s proclamation; and

WHEREAS, Williamson County residents value historical truth, ethnic heritage, and culture, which accurately reflects the real lives and struggles of African-Americans past, present, and future; and

WHEREAS, let us all be reminded that our nation, state, and county have not yet achieved its full potential.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT PROCLAIMED, that the Williamson County Commissioners Court takes hereby recognizes and proclaims, June 19, 2021 as:


Courts transition from virtual to in-person

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 20 May 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3161

At the Williamson County Justice Center courtrooms, plexiglass barriers have been placed at each counsel table, on the bar and at the podium where lawyers address the jury, which is seated in the gallery to maintain social distancing

When the state of emergency for COVID-19 was declared in March 2020, the Williamson County Justice Center, assisted by county departments such as IT and others, was able to conduct business throughout the shutdown.

“We knew that the ‘wheels of justice’ had to keep turning, so we did what you do in a desperate situation, we came together and figured it out,” said Judge Donna King of the 26th district court.

They didn’t just figure it out, they excelled at conducting daily business and holding court hearings virtually.

King also credits the support from the Commissioners Court.

This March, the emergency order permitted courts to begin holding in-person proceedings following COVID-19 prevention standards but encouraged them to continue remote proceedings through June 1.

King held her first in-person jury trial on April 13, describing it as “almost a feeling of relief to be back in a jury trial.”

Although the logistics of the proceedings looked very different from the prepandemic jury trial, they had turned a corner and their hard work of planning paid off.

She described feeling a sense of pride that those summoned to appear for jury duty honored their responsibility to the community. They showed up, participated and seemed to share in this “corporate” sense of relief that the proceedings were well-organized and COVID-protocol compliant.

While virtual jury trials were conducted during the shutdown in other counties, Wilco courts didn’t, citing a lack of control over procedure and adherence to the rules of trial, exposure to information outside the proceeding and constraints on litigants’ rights to confront their accusers fully and appropriately.

Before the shutdown, jury trials involved large cattle calls of prospective jurors and a flurry of activity to see which case would be selected, all in-person. The court now has implemented limitations on the number of cases heard per day and plans that reduce the number of people convened at the courthouse.

Commissioners Court Approves National Prevention Week Proclamation by Commissioner Cook on Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Week designation created by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

  • 12 May 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2767

Shown in photo inside the Historic Courthouse Commissioners Courtroom are from front from left: Martha Paddie, LifeSteps Coalition Coordinator; Rosana Sielaff, Director of Prevention; Barbara and George Brightwell, LifeSteps Founders: and Kelly McCaffrey, LifeSteps Executive Director. In back are from left Commissioner Cook, Commissioner Cynthia Long, Judge Bill Gravell and Commissioner Russ Boles.WHEREAS, National Prevention Week, created by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), is an annual time to raise awareness of the importance of substance use prevention and implementing positive mental health changes; and

 WHEREAS, this year’s National Prevention Week theme is “Youth Leading Prevention,” recognizing youth prevention leaders across the country and the power that each young person has in influencing positive community change; and

WHEREAS, according to the 2020 Texas School Survey, 42.8% of high school students (grades 9-12) and 21.3% of middle school students (7th and 8th grades) report drinking alcohol in the previous 30 days, and the 2019 Texas College survey found 54.8% of college students acknowledged alcohol use in the previous 30-days; and

WHEREAS, mental health workers around the world have reported increased feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and isolation in people of all ages, where youth have been especially impacted, during this pandemic leading to increased use of alcohol and other drugs to cope with this uncomfortable reality; and

WHEREAS, preventing substance use before it begins is the most effective way to eliminate the damage caused by drugs and alcohol abuse; and

Commissioners Court Approves Elder Abuse Prevention Proclamation by Commissioner Cook

  • 11 May 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2768

Staff of Texas Adult Protective Services in Williamson County and Commissioners Cook, Long, Judge Gravell, and Boles stand in background.

WHEREAS, our elderly population are vital and integral members of our society and their wisdom and experience have enriched our lives; and

WHEREAS, abuse and exploitation of the elderly in domestic and institutional settings are wide-spread problems, affecting hundreds of thousands of people across the country; and

WHEREAS, Texas Adult Protective Services In-Home Caseworkers in Williamson County investigated 1,284 allegations of which 388 cases of Abuse, Neglect and/or Exploitation were confirmed against our elderly Texans in 2020; and

WHEREAS, elder abuse, which happens to men and women of all income levels, all cultural and ethnic groups, in good health or incapacitated in some way, and across every type of community, is grossly underreported because the elderly who are being abused, find it very difficult to tell anyone, are usually ashamed, sometimes afraid, or may not be aware that someone they trust is taking advantage of them, or, in fact, not understand they are being abused; and

WHEREAS, the Williamson County Attorney’s Office serves an important role in the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse and exploitation, and they also have a strong victim services program to assist those who have been targeted for the abuse;


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