SAN ANTONIO — It is a plan to spend some money, but save taxpayers a lot more in the long run.
That was the goal at Bexar County Commissioners Court Tuesday with a vote that approved expanding services for the truly needy.
Experts say so many of the challenges we see on San Antonio streets are tied to untreated, mental health issues, addiction and not enough services.
Valerie Salas is with the Christian Assistance Ministry, which provides many outreach services to the unsheltered.
"There is no easy placement for these individuals," Salas said while marveling about the recent closure of a major south San Antonio health provider.
"It blows my mind that we are having mental health provider and psych ward and facilities close down," Salas said.
Advocates point out millions of dollars are invested in services for the homeless and more at the Bexar County Jail, where locking people up costs money and doesn't help people recover.
Dan Curry is the Director of Facilities Management for Bexar County.
"Commissioners Court today approved two items," Curry said "One was the purchase of an existing Dual Diagnosis and Residential Treatment Facility run by Adult Probation."
Curry said the secure facility is a long-time provider of mental health and substance abuse services.
"The second thing is they allowed us to solicit proposals for contractors for the construction of a new 130-bed facility to increase capacity."
The southside site is on Applewhite Road just east of Palo Alto Road. Bexar County has leased the property for years. Today Commissioners agreed to buy the 10-acre site and add life-saving new services.
"The biggest impact for the county will be reduction in the jail population," Curry said. "It helps the sheriff with overtime costs and it puts people in the right places for the right care."
The $25 million price tag, they say, will be offset by savings in rent and in the jail budget.
"The impetus of this project was to leverage existing infrastructure and try to create maximum benefit. If we were to build this from the ground up it would have cost us three times what we're spending," Curry said.
Curry said they hope to negotiate with a contractor this summer, ink a deal by November and start helping people recover sometime next calendar year.