Lack of mental health care continues to be problem (Video)

Sonny Long

Dec. 22, 2011 at 6:22 a.m.
Updated Dec. 23, 2011 at 6:23 a.m.

Joe Truman doesn't need a study to tell him there is a shortage of mental health care in Victoria County.

The county has been designated as a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"It's a mandate of our government to look out for the weak," said Truman, a self-described concerned citizen who also serves on the Victoria City Council. "They need an advocate. It's not a popular subject. It's not a popular group to defend, but they need defending."

"We can't warehouse these people at the jail and wait until their attack passes. I don't feel like we're doing the best we can for them," he said.

Truman addressed the county commissioners court Monday, expressing his concern about the state of mental health care in the county.

"I was hoping we as a community could reach out and help those most in need of our protection and services," Truman said.

Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi responded.

"Obviously mental health has long been an issue, not only here in Victoria County, but in many counties throughout Texas and throughout the nation," Pozzi said. "We are constantly aware of the mental health issues in this community, and we constantly deal with them."

"It's no secret we do not have any in-house, local mental health beds any more," the judge continued. "There are a lot of reasons for that. I can assure you that mental health is being addressed the very best it can be addressed in Victoria County."

The mental health unit at Citizens Medical Center closed in 2010.

Pozzi's statement that the problem is not only a local one is illustrated by the statewide statistics.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, less than one-third - 44,787 of 154,724 - Texas children with a severe emotional disturbance and 156,880 of 488,520 adults with serious and persistent mental illness received services through the community mental health system in 2010.

There simply aren't enough behavioral health professionals available to meet the demand for services, according to a March 2011 report by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, licensed professional counselors and advanced practice nurses, according to the report.

In Victoria, Gulf Bend Center is attempting to help close that gap, opening a new counseling center - Place4 - in late 2010. This year, the center offered a Mental Health First Aid program that trained 20 people to improve mental health understanding.

Commissioner Gary Burns, who serves on Gulf Bend's board of trustees, said more help could be on the way.

According to the 2011-16 Texas Health Plan, the establishment of peer support certification in Texas will have a significant impact on the state of the mental health profession.

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is working collaboratively with the Department of State Health Services to fund a process to certify peer specialists to serve as billable mental health professionals.

The entrance of these professionals into the mental health arena will drastically change the face of mental health and shift the focus toward recovery, wellness and personal responsibility as opposed to the current medical model of disease management, according to the report.

The project is directed by Mental Health America of Texas and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.



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