SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) — Smith County leaders are calling it our biggest health crisis, and it’s not COVID-19.

Mental illness. Two words that impact our friends families and our community.

1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental health issues, On many of these people find themselves in our jails. On Friday, Smith County leaders met to get those inmates the help they need.

“We’re down to situation if we don’t do something we’re going to have more than we can handle in a few years,” said Sandra Hamilton, President of NAMI Tyler.

After receiving a grant, to help those behind bars receive treatment, and keep them from committing future crimes, Smith County leaders are ready to get to work.

“We have the highest rate of suicide here in East Texas in Smith County than any other county in the state of Texas, now that’s not good,” said Hamilton.

The grant money, from the Texas Judicial Commission, was given to only to five counties in the state.

Smith County leaders like Judge Austin Reeves, Tyler Police Chief Jimmy Toler, and Tyler Mayor Don Warren are part of the group. That along with other agencies have been tasked to come up with a solution.

“This has always been an issue about one in ten inmates in smith county jail have some form in mental illness the numbers are probably higher than that those are the ones that we know about,” said Sheriff Larry Smith.

Experts say the first thing we can do to help those with mental health issues in East Texas, is to shatter the stigma behind it.

“We cannot continue to not provide services to this population they are apart of our community. if we elevate them than we elevate our community,” said Jeanette Caulhon, Director East Texas Cares Resource Center.

Smith County health organizations plan to unite, so their patients can receive the best care possible.

“There’s an awful lot of good people in this room there’s lot of good community that really truly care the days of all us trying to do it on our own need to be over we need to join together and work together to make this happen,” said Sam Smith, Hands Up Network, CEO.