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Mental health community needs resiliency to weather upcoming storm

March 10, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 9, 2011 at 9:10 p.m.


By Don Polzin

These are interesting times for community mental health centers in Texas. As health care reform unfolds, there is more we don't know than we do know. One thing for sure, however, is that the number of people eligible for and seeking services will significantly increase.

At the same time, the 82nd Texas Legislature is facing uncertainty with a significant revenue shortfall.

The available resources for Texas Community Mental Health Centers could significantly decrease. These factors are creating conditions favorable for the perfect storm. There are some necessary tools we can employ if we want to survive this storm.

The first is an ability to be flexible. Instead of trying to "hang-on" or "hold-on" to what we have, it makes more sense to think creatively, and consider whole new ways of doing things. We may have to step off of our comfortable, well-worn paths, no matter how well they have served us in the past.

Another tool is the resiliency to bounce back quickly. We know changes are coming. But we don't know exactly when or what they will be. We'll have to be able to "turn on a dime" or get left behind. Hesitancy could be disastrous.

A third tool for survival in these changing times is the courage to act on some assumptions. While no one can predict with certainty, there are some calculated guesses we can make. It takes courage to trust intuition and anticipate the market place by stepping out ahead of the pack. At Gulf Bend Center, we've done some of that. In fact, for the past year, we have been acting on some intuitive assumptions.

Opening Place4, a family counseling center, has enabled us to broaden and expand our service base. More people are now eligible for Gulf Bend Center services than ever before. Place4 also positions us to respond to the demands of health care reform. We should be able to shift gears and do it quickly.

Gulf Bend Center, along with nine other community mental health centers and five state hospitals, has joined a collaborative effort with Mental Health America of Texas and the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Texas to examine how we look at recovery. Stabilization and maintenance are no longer enough. Better recovery efforts will not only improve quality of life, but will also help people to "move on," exit the mental health system and allow for an increasing service population.

Partnerships with other nonprofit, as well as private for-profit organizations, are critical. We are sitting around the table with several potentially new partners, looking for ways to collaborate our skills and resources. Instead of creating all new programs, we are looking for existing programs we can tap into. This can reduce costs and shorten start-up time.

These are just a few of the efforts we have initiated to tool-up for the future. Of course, we could be wrong. Which is why it's important to be able to turn on a dime.

Don Polzin is the executive director of Gulf Bend Center in Victoria.

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