HCDA Banner


Denise Oncken - Mental Health Bureau Chief

Oncken Head Shot

Denise Oncken, a native Texan and Houstonian, has been an Assistant District Attorney with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for over 30 years. She is currently the Bureau Chief over the Mental Health, Victim Services, Child Fatality and Juvenile Justice Divisions.

She is a well-respected prosecutor with a diverse prosecution background at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office including Division Chief over Mental Health, Division Chief over Crimes Against Children, Division Chief over Child Abuse, Chief Prosecutor of several Criminal District Courts (handling Capital Murder cases), Chief Prosecutor in the Special Crimes Bureau Drug Task Force and a specialized prosecutor handling domestic violence cases as well as child sexual abuse cases.   As a Division Chief over Crimes Against Children, Oncken was a founding partner in the creation of the Harris County Children’s Assessment Center and formulated the first Child Exploitation Section.  Further, Oncken worked with local leaders in the creation of the Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center which opened in the fall of 2018. 

Oncken’s responsibilities also involve overseeing the chiefs and prosecutors handling all mental health dockets/courts, filing civil commitment petitions for sexually violent offenders, child homicides, and juvenile offenders. In addition, she has the newly expanded Victim Services Division serving the needs of victims of crime in Harris County.

Oncken has been on numerous advisory boards, committees, and councils.  In 2018, she was the only Assistant District Attorney appointed to the Judicial Commission on Mental Health by the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals.  She was appointed by the Governor in 2014 to the Advisory Committee to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice on Offenders with Medical and Mental Impairments. She was also appointed to serve on the Joint Committee on Access and Forensic Services in 2015 on behalf of Texas District and County Attorney’s Association. Oncken is a founding member, past chair and currently serves on the State Child Fatality Review Team Committee. She is a frequent speaker on behalf of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and has presented at conferences for the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association, the State Bar of Texas, the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, State Hospital Forensic Conferences amongst others.

She is an honor graduate of the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Business. She is a December 1985 graduate of the South Texas College of Law and has been licensed in Texas since May 1986. She was licensed in the Federal Southern District of Texas in 1988. She is a member of the highly acclaimed Texas Prosecutor Society inducted in 2016, Houston Bar Association, Fellows of the Houston Bar Foundation, and co-chair 2017-19 of the Houston Bar Association Senior Lawyers Committee.