A crisis is looming at the state level that may have a significant impact on mental health treatment throughout Texas. Already financially strapped after cutting its budget by five percent, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has been ordered to cut its 2012-2013 budget by $134 million.
The proposed cuts would significantly impact the Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County (MHMRA), subsequently creating higher demand on other mental health organizations like Montrose Counseling Center. MHMRA is Harris County’s only public mental health center for the treatment of bipolar disorder, severe depression and schizophrenia. According to a Houston Chronicle Op-Ed piece written by Lillian Aguirra Ortiz of Mental Health America of Greater Houston, “approximately 400,000 adults in our area with other mental illnesses have to try and find services elsewhere regardless of their ability to pay for treatment.”
Montrose Counseling Center Executive Director, Ann J. Robison, PhD, expresses her disappointment that, just when mental health facilities were making strides in reducing the stigma of mental health, thereby increasing access to care, the state puts it near the bottom of its priority list. “The entire system will break down, and many of the people who need to be under psychiatric supervision to receive medication will be out of luck,” foresees Robison. She adds that it will mean that more people with mental health problems will be arrested and put in jail instead of getting the treatment they really need.
According to the Op-Ed article, “Untreated mental illnesses lead many individuals to cycle in and out of homelessness as well as our emergency rooms, jails and prisons. Lack of treatment also leads to an increase in the utilization of police… since law enforcement personnel are often called in to deal with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.”
Ortiz says that services already are limited to the mentally ill, and cuts this extreme “will exacerbate what should already be considered a serious public health and public safety issue.”