Gulf Bend prepares to begin work on mental health transitional housing

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

May 4, 2013 at 12:04 a.m.

Renderings of what the expected Gulf Bend Wellness Community could look like. The project already has received some public and private funding and is expected to be complete in about two years.

Renderings of what the expected Gulf Bend Wellness Community could look like. The project already has received some public and private funding and is expected to be complete in about two years.

Mental health patients in the Crossroads region soon will have a place to call home.

Though two years away from being complete, Gulf Bend Center is working toward the construction of a wellness community with a $250,000 federal starter grant received in October from the city of Victoria.

The housing project is a transition unit, not an inpatient unit, and is both a public and private venture, said Don Polzin, the center's executive director.

The plan is to begin reaching out to the community for funding help at Tuesday's Victoria Economic Development Corporation's partnership meeting.

"We've got some money to raise," he said. "There is not anything like this in Texas. ... I'm excited about it. I think it will be a great thing to have in place and I know it will meet a need that currently exists."

Polzin will also speak to the Victoria City Council on Tuesday to update officials on how the grant has been used.

With the grant, Gulf Bend purchased three acres from Mid-Coast Family Services for the 34-unit community housing complex, which will be in the 1100 block of Nimitz Street and will serve those needing behavioral health support or services, Polzin said.

Gulf Bend also received a $250,000 grant from the Johnson Foundation.

Mental health issues are a community problem, he said, and everyone should be aware of their existence.

"We've got to educate other providers and ourselves about how we integrate and deliver collaborative care," Polzin said. "We've got to have support."

While Gulf Bend focuses mostly on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, the housing will be available mostly for people with mental health issues who apply and are accepted.

Sex offenders and convicted felons will not be accepted.

The community's residents will go through an application process and most residents will have Social Security insurance through Medicaid. Residents will be required to pay a reasonable rent, depending on each situation, said David Way, associate executive director.

Anywhere from two to four staffers will make rounds to the housing complex, this does not include third-party health services.

Depending on their issues, some residents will stay anywhere from two days to several weeks or months, he added.

The goal of the facility is to decrease inpatient and emergency room admissions for co-occurring mental illness and chronic diseases and to transition fully-functioning citizens back into society.

Its construction would also have a trickle-down effect in terms of jail diversion, Polzin and Way said.

In 2012, 1,500 people with mental health diagnoses were jailed in Victoria County when they could have received outpatient treatment.

One day of incarceration for a mentally ill person costs about $100, while a day of treatment could cost as little as $10, Polzin said.

The construction of a wellness community is just the first of many changes the center will see as 2014 rolls around and the Affordable Care Act kicks in, Polzin said.

With the passage of the federal law, 25,000 uninsured residents will soon be insured in the Crossroads region, and Gulf Bend is ready to take those on, Way said.

One of those ideas is to create a crisis stabilization center, somewhat of an inpatient unit with an outpatient approach.

For now, however, Polzin and Way are excited about a stronger future where mental health and physical health are one.

"We have the opportunity to service the whole person," Way said. "Behavioral health is now a conversation piece."



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