Learning Site

The Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) was one of five law enforcement agencies nationwide selected as a Law Enforcement Mental Health Learning Site in April 2021. The five agencies selected in April join nine existing sites.

The HCSO is very excited to have received this distinction. We look forward to sharing our model programs and policies for responding to individuals in mental and/or behavioral health crisis in patrol and in the jail.

(Photo at right: Deputy Brittany Ortiz, CORE Coordinator, with CORE clinicians from The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD.)

About Harris County

Harris County, with a population of 4.1 million, is the most populous county in Texas and the third most populous in the United States. It is one of the largest counties in the nation in landmass, encompassing 1788 square miles. Harris County includes 41 incorporated municipalities and is one of the most culturally diverse counties in the nation. At least 145 languages are spoken in Harris County and there are 49 consulates general, 28 consulates, and 2 representative offices in Houston.

About the Harris County Sheriff's office

The Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) is the largest sheriff's office in Texas and the third-largest in the United States, with nearly 4,600 employees and 200 reservists. In 2020, the average daily jail population was 8,316 and 26% of the jail population was on psychotropic medications. The HCSO jail is the largest mental health facility in Texas.

The HCSO has collaborated with Harris County's local mental health authority, The Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability (The Harris Center), since the 1970s on behavioral health programs in the jail. The HCSO and The Harris Center have collaborated on specialized mental health responses for patrol since 2011.


Harris County Sheriff's Office
1200 Baker Street
Houston, TX 77002

video on the history of harris county's collaborative programs


View the short video on the history, development, and implementation of Harris County's collaborative strategies for responding to individuals in behavioral crisis.

The video was produced by the Menninger Clinic and shown at their 2022 Annual Signature Luncheon where they presented the Harris County  Sheriff's Office with their Vital Balance Award.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office is very appreciative of the collaboration it has with the Menninger Clinic, one of the premiere mental health facilities in the nation. The Menninger Clinic provides instructors for the HCSO's mental health training classes.

Patrol Programs


Our innovative award-winning program connecting patrol deputies to crisis clinicians via a computer tablet


Sergeant Jose (Rico) Gomez


Project Guardian

A program for responding safely and effectively to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Sergeant Jose (Rico) Gomez


Project Lifesaver

A program for locating individuals who wander due to cognitive disabilities such as Alzheimer's Disease


Sergeant Jose (Rico) Gomez


Homeless Outreach Team

A specialized team responding to the unique needs of persons experiencing homelessness


Sergeant John Whitley


Co-Responder Program

A program partnering a CIT-trained deputy with a masters-level clinician from The Harris Center


Sergeant Jose (Rico) Gomez


Boarding Homes

A specialized unit formed to regulate boarding homes in unincorporated Harris County


Sergeant Jose (Rico) Gomez


Jail Programs

Front Door Services

Operates 24/7. Staffed by behavioral health and medical personnel providing psychiatric evaluations, medication maintenance, and crisis intervention at initial point of incarceration.

Mental Health infirmary

Inpatient psychiatric treatment including psychiatric evaluation, medication management, substance abuse counseling, individual and group counseling, and discharge planning.

Step-Down Unit

Housing for patients/inmates unable to successfully reside in general population. Services include substance abuse counseling, individual and group counseling, and discharge planning.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Two 20-bed programs, one for male and one for female inmates. Assists patients/inmates with changing maladaptive patterns that result in destructive behavior.

Peer Re-Entry Program

Identifies inmates 30 days prior to their release. Identifies and establishes community support for them and provides continued services while they are in the community.

Chronic Care Clinic

Registered nurses provide ongoing medication monitoring at least every 120 days to all patients on mental health medications. Psychiatrists are available to make adjustments to medication.

Competency/Sanity Assessment

Provides evaluations to determine competency of defendants to stand trial and to determine the mental state of the defendant at the time of the alleged offense.

Forensic Portal for Courts

Provides linkage to community and jail services. Monitors defendants on the waitlist pending competency restoration and defendants returned from the state hospital.

Jail Diversion Units

Identify low-level and non-violent misdemeanants who have been identified with a mental health history for possible diversion from jail into mental health treatment.

Forensic Interview

On a determination that there is a reasonable cause to believe the defendant has a mental illness or is a person with an intellectual disability the magistrate may order the collection of information.

Competency Restoration

Services include mental health services, medication, co-occurring and substance use services, and discharge planning. Treatments commensurate with a program at the state hospital.

Community Assistance

Identifies individuals being released on a general order bond who have a mental health history. Interviews them and helps them access mental health services in the community

Outpatient/General Population Services

LPHAs, LPHA interns, and Qualified Mental Health Professionals (QMHPs) are available seven days a week.


For information on the jail program in the Harris  County Sheriff's Office contact:

Sean McElroy



Jail Diversion

Jail Diversion Center

The Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center (Jail Diversion Center) opened in September 2018. The facility is an integral part of Harris County's pre-charge jail diversion program. Offenders committing low-level, non-violent offenses when it is believed mental illness and/or psychosocial issues were a factor in the commission of the crime are diverted from jail to the Jail Diversion Center (JDC).

An example is a person who is homeless, suffers from mental illness, and stays in a building at night because he needs a place to sleep.

A study of the JDC conducted in 2020 found a 50% reduction in subsequent bookings after participants were diverted. Those with 5+ bookings were 3.1 times less likely to be booked into jail on a new offense than those not served at the JDC. For every $1 spent on diversion, the county avoided spending $5.54 on criminal justice costs.


For information on Harris County's jail diversion programs contact:

Sergeant Jose (Rico) Gomez


Cite and Release

Texas passed legislation in 2007 giving peace officers the authority to issue a citation for a narrow selection of  Class A and B misdemeanors rather than arresting the individual. The citation is an order to appear in court. The person is still held accountable for the crime. The program eliminates the arrest and short incarceration of the individual who would be out on bail in a day or two. 

The Harris County Sheriff's Office implemented the program, Cite and Release, in February 2020. Crimes involving violence, individuals with warrants, or individuals with a history of criminality are NOT eligible for the program.

The program saves the county money, returns deputies to the field quicker, and eliminates the costly short-term incarceration of individuals innocent until proven guilty. The Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff's Office, and Pasadena Police Department issued the most citations in 2020.


"The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance."

- Benjamin Franklin


Training is the foundation of all the specialized behavioral health programs in the Harris County Sheriff's Office. The largest training initiative in the agency's history was implemented in June 2017 mandating that all new certified and detention personnel receive 40 hours of behavioral health training in their academies. Additional mandates included eight hours of annual refresher training for all CIT-trained certified personnel and behavioral health training for dispatchers and call takers. Our behavioral health training also includes the Police Executive Research Forum's (PERF) Integrating Communications, Assessments, & Tactics (ICAT) training along with Georgetown Law's Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) training.

If you would like more information on our training or if your agency is interested in having their personnel trained, please contact us.


Sergeant Jose Gomez



Personnel from the Harris County Sheriff's Office, Houston Police Department, and The Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability who work full-time on mental health programs. (Photo taken in December 2021)



The CORE telehealth program received an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACO)



The CORE telehealth program received an Excellence Award for Innovation at Work from the National Council


The Jail Mental Health Infirmary was named Program of the Year for 2013 by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care


Chief Deputy Mike Lee

Chief Deputy Lee is a recognized national leader regarding law enforcement training and programs for responding to individuals with mental illness. He started working on this issue in 1998 as a sergeant in the Houston Police Department (HPD) where he started HPD's Mental Health Unit. As a lieutenant, he was the person responsible for implementing HPD's first Mental Health Division. Chief Deputy Lee developed and implemented many of HPD's Law Enforcement Mental Health programs. He is the author of several technical reports regarding law enforcement response to individuals with mental illness and has presented widely on the topic. He honorably retired from HPD as a captain in November 2016.

Chief Deputy Lee developed the first Mental Health and Jail Diversion Bureau in the Harris County Sheriff's Office as a major in January 2017. He is currently over the Law Enforcement Command which includes Special Projects.

Project Manager Frank Webb

Frank honorably retired from the Houston Police Department (HPD) as a senior police officer in March 2017. He served in the HPD for 36 years. Frank is the person most responsible for developing and implementing HPD's Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Program and coordinated that program for five years.

He was selected by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement as Discipline Chair of a statewide committee that developed a 24-hour mental health class for the Texas Basic Peace Officer Curriculum in 2005. He was also selected by the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University to teach all Texas police chiefs a state-mandated 16-hour CIT class.

Frank has authored several articles on the topic of law enforcement response to individuals with mental illness and has presented widely on the topic.

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Alzheimer's Association

Arnold Ventures

Coalition for the Homeless

District Attorney's Office

HOPE Center

HOPE Haven

Hope Impacts

Houston Police Department



Houston Recovery Center

Menninger Clinic

NAMI Greater Houston

NW Assistance Ministries

Operation ID

SEARCH Homeless Services

The Harris Center

Univ of Houston Downtown