Advocate Editorial Board opinion:

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Jan. 25, 2014 at 4:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 24, 2014 at 7:25 p.m.

Mental health care is an important part of the medical services that many people will need at some point in their lives.

In Victoria, we have a strong medical community that includes two award-winning hospitals and many different clinics. Now, two of those health care providers are working together to improve mental health care options in the Victoria community. Citizens Medical Center and Gulf Bend Center have announced a partnership aimed at coordinating care to better treating mental health issues in Crossroads patients. This project would build an alternative avenue to care that people need.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 26.2 percent of adults in the United States are diagnosable with mental health problems in a year. Of those cases, about 22.3 percent - or 5.8 percent nationally - are severe. The number of diagnosable cases of lifetime prevalence rises to 46.4 percent of the population. Of the people who have a disorder in any given year, about 36 percent are receiving treatment, but about 12 percent of those with a disorder are receiving only minimally adequate treatment.

With such a large percent of the population struggling with mental health issues, our health care providers need to step up treatment options that address the problem from the beginning. Many mental health issues can manifest in physical symptoms. At a Tuesday meeting with members of the Victoria Advocate Editorial Board, representatives from Citizens Medical Center and Gulf Bend Center, including Citizens CEO Stephen Thames and Gulf Bend Executive Director Donald Polzin, shared their plans for a partnership and how it will affect mental health services in the Crossroads.

This plan will help save money for both Citizens and Gulf Bend by better utilizing available resources, according to a news release provided at the meeting. Previously, patients would come to the emergency room for treatment of physical symptoms of their behavioral health needs, and the hospital would have to keep them there until the symptoms were treated, but the root cause was not always addressed, Thames said. This partnership would allow a coordination between the Gulf Bend Center personnel and Citizens Medical Center to offer treatment for the cause instead of simply treating symptoms that are likely to resurface because of the patient's untreated behavioral health issues.

The partnership is also aimed at establishing a community learning collaborative for all health care providers, public and private, to learn from one another. One major development that is coming is the Gulf Bend Center's Wellness Community, which will be an apartment community designed to give mental health patients an environment removed from the settings that are part of their mental health problems, according to a news release. This would be a step between hospital care and returning to the outside world for patients to adjust and learn healthy lifestyle behaviors before returning to everyday life.

We are excited to see all of these pieces developing in the Victoria community. Our health care providers have proven themselves to be excellent, community-oriented companies dedicated to offering the best care possible. This partnership and the building of the Wellness Community is a major step forward for mental health care in the Crossroads. We look forward to seeing the positive developments that come from this partnership. In time, we hope the Crossroads can be a place that is known for its effective mental health care from primary care physicians all the way up to our major hospitals.

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



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