Eight years ago, a person like Mason would have been heading to the emergency room or jail next. But the jail in Bexar County, Texas, where San Antonio is located, was so overcrowded — largely with people with serious mental illnesses — that the state was getting ready to levy fines.

To deal with the problem, San Antonio and Bexar County have completely overhauled their mental-health system into a program considered a model for the rest of the nation.

The effort has focused on an idea called “smart justice” — basically, diverting people with serious mental illness out of jail and into treatment instead. It is possible because all the players in the system that deal with mental illness — the police, the county jail, mental-health department, criminal courts, hospitals, and homeless programs — pooled their resources to take better care of people with mental illness. 

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This article originally appeared on MPR

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