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Gulf Bend Center considers expansion of services

Aug. 20, 2010 at 3:20 a.m.
Updated Aug. 21, 2010 at 3:21 a.m.


Gulf Bend Center is committed to keeping people with serious and persistent mental illness stable and free from the onset of mental health crisis.

Service data analyzed by the Center indicates patients who are aligned with the Center and receiving psychiatric medical care and community support services are much less likely to experience psychiatric emergencies and are therefore unlikely to end up in a hospital emergency room or local jail cell.

Closure of the only psychiatric inpatient unit in the region has caused questions to be raised about the need for such services and whether there are viable alternatives. Of course, there are those cases in which both adults and children will require more intrusive hospital inpatient care in order to assure the patient's safety and the safety of others, and to stabilize their condition. However, historical data recorded and analyzed by Gulf Bend Center authorities indicates that perhaps as many as 40 percent to 50 percent of cases that were hospitalized during the past year could have avoided costly hospitalization had a less restrictive crisis treatment program involving counseling and other less intrusive therapeutic approaches been available.

Therefore, Gulf Bend Center management is exploring the possibility of developing a crisis treatment program as an enhancement to its emergency mobile crisis outreach service.

The program would be located in conjunction with the Center's crisis screening and assessment services and would operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The service would be available to all citizens regardless of ability to pay.

The planning of this new service has the endorsement of the Center's board of trustees. Construction of expanded facilities and cost of operation must be studied to determine a sustainable method of finance.

Center funds could be used to match other sources of funding to support construction costs; however, state general revenue funds are essential to ongoing program operations.

The coming 82nd Texas Legislature poses a risk to the availability of state general revenue because of an approximately $20 billion budget shortfall.

The importance of these enhanced services cannot be emphasized enough.

Such services would provide further capability of local law enforcement, the local hospitals and Gulf Bend Center to more efficiently and effectively intervene and resolve psychiatric emergencies.

This provides a return on investment for taxpayers as it prevents costly emergency room care for those not requiring physical medical care, and it prevents the likelihood that someone will end up in jail who is not dangerous to themselves or others, has committed a minor offense, and who could benefit from outpatient treatment.

The Sheriff's Association of Texas and the Texas Council of Community Mental Health Centers have joined forces and are sending a clear message to lawmakers in Austin asking them to continue their investment made in the 81st Legislature, and do everything possible to maintain current funding of mental health emergency services to all 39 community mental health centers serving the 254 counties in Texas.

Donald L. Polzin is the executive director of the Gulf Bend Center.

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