Hands On

When the sickest of Harris County's mentally ill break down, an ACT team is there to pick up the pieces and put them back together again

More worrisome, from the perspective of Mitchell and his 30-odd ACT team members, is that ACT appears primed to become just another business. A California company with a less-than-reassuring name, Telecare Corp., has taken over two ACT teams in San Antonio and one in Fort Worth. For the past year, Telecare has been trying to make inroads to Harris County, but for now at least, the company hasn't gained much traction.

"They're sending me a lot of propaganda, trying to get me on their side," Mitchell says. "But so far, I'm told, we don't have anything to worry about."

Telecare would probably want to hire Mitchell and most of his crew, with better pay. However, it's hard to imagine a private company taking the time to discuss with the Edward Carters of the world whether or not they fit the definition of someone with mental illness. Much easier, perhaps, to concede that they do not and move along to someone more amenable. Then again, it may not be good for the bottom line to drop in on people like Darnell Anderson, just to ask him how he's doing.

Director Tom Mitchell worries that ACT could be privatized.
Deron Neblett
Director Tom Mitchell worries that ACT could be privatized.

Toward the end of a recent visit from Mitchell, Darnell finally got around to that small favor he always seems to need. Slumping a bit in his chair, a trifle embarrassed, he asked, "Hey, Tom, can you get me a comb and some socks?"

And Tom Mitchell replied, "I'll have somebody bring 'em by tomorrow, Darnell."

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