Advocate editorial board opinion: Community should strive to solve Crossroads' mental health needs

By the Advocate Editorial Board
April 1, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated April 1, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.

We know that the state's funding of mental health is being cut. We know that no mental health facility in Texas will surface unscathed by these cuts, including our own Gulf Bend Center, which expects to see about a 20 percent reduction in its funding.

"Our budget is 70 percent personnel. It's people serving people. A cut of this magnitude would remove $2 million from our budget. That equates to lost jobs and people with mental illness and developmental disabilities going unserved," said Don Polzin, executive director of the Gulf Bend Center.

That hurts.

And while there are mental health hospitals still operating, such as the one in San Antonio, those beds are being filled by people ordered there by the courts. Those patients and others who might be there on their own accord are filling those beds to capacity, leaving many without help.

Polzin said when hospitals are at capacity, patients are diverted to another facility, but at some point, there will be nowhere to go for mental health patients seeking help.

That hurts doubly.

Of course, our inpatient facility closed a year ago at Citizens Medical Center, and only outpatient service is available. Gulf Bend has tried to close that void by creating a counseling service that often can prevent a more serious problem with a patient later.

But people like Patsy Weppler of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Victoria think the Crossroads needs an inpatient facility because people with severe mental illness will continue to have episodes from time to time.

We agree that an inpatient mental health facility is needed. But financially, we don't think it can be done at this point.

Gulf Bend, NAMI-Victoria, the Victoria County Sheriff's Office, Citizens Medical Center and the Victoria Police Department have been collaborating more to help the problem. The sheriff transports people ordered by the courts to inpatient facilities. Others end up in jail, emergency rooms and even schools. The need for an inpatient facility is apparent, but doctors would be needed to service patients as well.

Working together to ease the problem seems to be the best way to address the problem temporarily. However, the community will have to get serious to sufficiently address this very real problem among us. Let's keep working toward a solution for mental health services. When the funding is cut, the problem will remain and likely become more severe.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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