PRO: Crossroads needs in-house mental health unit

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

April 25, 2010 at 11:05 p.m.
Updated April 25, 2010 at 11:26 p.m.

Sarah Beaver used the One South mental health unit at Citizens Medical Center several times in the past.

When the inpatient emergency unit shut down on April 1, Beaver's first thoughts were that an emergency and having to travel two hours to the nearest facility don't work well together.

"I think we do need one," the Port Lavaca resident said. "Even though the number of beds have gone down, I think that it's important to keep in mind that the mental health unit is very essential at that moment."

Beaver did not comment on why she had to visit the facility, but did say she the unit helped her get through her mental health emergency.

Beaver has a husband and three children and fears the travel to an out-of-town facility would be an even more economic and emotional strain on their family life.

"I think that it is important for anyone with mental illness or in crisis to have to place to go that is local," she said. "It affects the whole surrounding area. When you're in the hospital, it's difficult enough already, but to not be able to see anyone at all is even harder."

It is individuals like Beaver that Don Polzin, Gulf Bend executive director, continues fighting for.

"What we need in the community is a continuum of care in the facility," he said. "I think what we need is the right minds locally around the table to come to some policy decision as to what we consider being important to our community and the area we serve."

The problem is not a question of whether Victoria can provide quality mental health care for the Crossroads, but whether there is funding available to offer that quality service.

"I would advocate that we need something," Polzin said. "It may not be what we have had in the past or what we have known."

Some people who have received service in an inpatient service setting could have been taken care by an alternative service, he added.

That's not to say Victoria did not benefit from the mental health unit.

"We put an importance on having such services as cardiovascular and other major disease intervention services and professional medical services here, so why wouldn't we want to do the same for mental health?" Polzin asked.

As a consumer, Beaver isn't up to speed on funding or the costs of keeping a department operating. She just knows she and people like her in the Crossroads have been affected by the unit's closure.

"They wouldn't tell people to travel two hours for a heart attack," Beaver said. "It sounds drastic to compare a heart attack to suicide, but that's an emergency. It's not fair to not have a resource to help that person."



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