The State of Mental Health Care in the Valley — Offering hope for the future

For the past 30 years I and my colleagues engaged in treatment for those with mental illness and substance use disorders have continuously advocated for increases in funding and the development of new programs of treatment in our Valley Communities.

Our many speeches, contacts with State Representatives, presentations, newspaper articles and other writings are a testament to this endeavor. Our works, although often appearing to us mere “voices crying out into the wilderness,” have not been in vain…our voices were finally listened to, not just heard…leading to a resurgence if care that the Valley has ever seen after many years of stagnated services wherein the State was the major player.

I noted this resurgence last year in an article in this column (re: Valley Morning Star, Wellness, “Mental Illness Treatment in the Valley,” August 11, 2016), and it is but one of many articles I have written about the subject in the Star over the years.

I am so very pleased to see that further programs are now taking place, and being developed, to provide the very needed and important services for our communities; to offer help and hope to so many individuals and their families living under the yolk of Mental illness and Substance Use Disorders.

The Valley Morning Star, in Editorial of September 25th of this year, entitled “Mental Health in the RGV,” highlights some of the programs now in place and in the stages of development…the development of a PhD program in Clinical Psychology at UTRGV, and a prisoner screening program.

These developments are very important, and I commend the Star for reporting them. There are other new programs coming on line that equally will play a very, very important role in addressing and treating individuals and their families for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse; that our communities need to be aware of.

One such program, initiated by the UTRGV Counseling and Training Clinic, Department of Psychology, in Edinburg; provides free counseling services under Supervised UTRGV graduate students. The counseling service conducted by interns under supervision of a Psychologist, provides them with their needed 400 hours of their internship towards their graduate degree in Counseling and/or psychology.

According to their information obtained, the clinic treats all forms of emotional and mental health issues. the services are offered to all Rio Grande Valley residents without charge, and that many have taken advantage of the program. For hours of operation and further information I encourage you to contact them at the URGV.edu web-site, or by calling 956-665-3627 (Edinburg), or 956-882-5708 (Brownsville).

Another initiative that is most important is those under development by the Tropical Texas Behavioral Health organization (TTBH) in the area of Substance Use Disorders. The organization already has many, most important programs; to include detoxification services, out-patient care, aftercare services, and the OSAR program. Under the Substance Abuse Expansion Initiative the aim is to increase the availability and quality of the programs, and even add an out-patient facility to the organization.

The Substance Abuse division, under the Direction of its Director, Mr. Stephen O. Vega, has responsibility for a very large geographic area, Region 11, covering the Valley Region and many other counties; cities of Laredo, Corpus Christi, Falfurrias, and many other cities and towns in between. The Substance Abuse Division under Mr. Vega’s supervision has 17 Counselors; one Licensed Professional Counselor(LPC) and 16 Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselors(LCDC).

Mental Health care is of utmost important to the TTBH as well; and they offer a wide array of services for those individuals having a mental illness and their families; services that include out-patient care, medication management and other services performed by important highly trained Psychologists, social workers, and most capable Counselors such as Mr. Juan Hernandez, LPC.

In the article I wrote last year I discussed all of the In-Patient and Out-Patient facilities of the Valley, of which there are many now…a vast improvement over the years that have benefited many of our Valley population. Rio Grande State Hospital, with its 55 beds for stabilization of the acute and chronic person with mental illness; and other hospitals of the region offer best-practices care that meets, and now even perhaps exceeds, the needs we have in the areas of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse. Not believing in a static environment, however, there is always need for improvements and diversification of programs…and of course adequate funding is always of issue.

At the time of this writing I have been informed of yet another initiative that offers much hope…alleviating the stigma associated with Mental Illness and Substance Abuse. The Cameron County Mental Health Task Force has announced receiving a significant grant from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation for their part in the National “End The Stigma Campaign.” According to the CCMHTF website, the campaign will “fight the stigma at the local level by breaking those negative beliefs and attitudes through advocacy and community awareness via social media, bill boards, and presentations.”

This is a most positive initiative, one in which my colleagues and I have advocated for many years; and I have worked most diligently in this regard through my many presentations and writing over the years during “End The Stigma Campaigns.” The Task Force has not released the particulars on the intricacies of their campaign; the objectives, strategies, or indicators of what they will specifically do; and it is with hope that they will be action oriented.

I have been supportive of the Task Force over the years, attended a few meetings, providing a presentation to them and giving them copies of my books for dissemination… I know that their members are very capable colleagues.

Of final note to you whom read this article; I will make available my writings on stigma and copies of my books as I have always said, to anyone desirous of taking part in raising awareness of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse…one need only e-mail me at rjonessr29@att.net.

Let us all concentrate on Hope for the future, concentrating on action and not mere words. Until next time, Stay Healthy My Friends!