Funding major concern for crises services

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Dec. 27, 2010 at 6:27 a.m.

Gulf Bend Center, like many state agencies, is at the grip and mercy of Texas' near $20 billion deficit.

"Legislators need to make a good, conscious informed decision," said Don Polzin, the center's director. "It's a concern."

Crises services are all facing the possibility of cuts in funding that translates to people needing those services, Polzin said.

While funding decreases and increases, the number of mental illnesses stays at a constant, he added.

"It's not a simple answer," he said to what legislators have to work with in the upcoming legislature.

David Way, the director of operations at the center, compared the budget to a balloon.

When one part of the balloon is squeezed, the air bulges out of another part, much like when funds are allocated, Way said.

"You're going to have to pay one way or another," he said.

In the past several years, Gulf Bend had worked toward jail diversion with area law enforcement, Polzin said.

The treatment of patients, on average, costs about $3,000 a year, compared to imprisoning the patients, which is about $50 a day for 60 to 90 days.

"If the mental health services are dissolved, there is going to be an increase in the number of people in jails and hospitals," he said.

Several bills have been filed for improvement in mental health services, however the center is looking at the bigger picture - funding.

"Both of these bills are bills that we support," Polzin said regarding Senate Bill 44, which refers to the detention and transportation of a person with mental illness and House Bill 39, which relates to a court's authority to order a patient to receive extended outpatient mental health services.

Mid-Coast Family Services is also looking at taking some possible budget cuts, said Ginny Stafford, chief executive officer

The Department of State Health Services has been talking about cutting an entire program, rather than taking away from several programs.

The program at the chopping block is the outreach screening assessment and referral program, which serves about 81,622 people a year, Stafford said.

This means Mid-Coast would not have the funding, or staff, to treat the people with substance abuse crises, she said.

"If you live in a big city you may be able to find treatment, but if you live in places like Victoria or Calhoun County, where in the world would you begin," Stafford asked.

Mid-Coast is looking at several family violence and substance abuse bills, but funding is the real concern, she said.

"We're still going to pay for it somewhere," she said. "The substance abusers aren't going to go away."



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