Harris County Makes Mental Health Help More Accessible

The Harris County Hospital District has created a way to make behavioral care and drug abuse counseling available to more people. It's putting behavioral care professionals in the hospital district's Community Health Centers around the county to serve people who can't afford their own private care.

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This initiative is a project of the Hospital District and the Menninger Department of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. It's putting psychiatrists, psychologists, drug abuse counselors, and support staff in Community Health Centers and a handful of partnering private clinics to provide outpatient behavioral care to the general public. Dr. Britta Ostermeyer of Baylor College of Medicine says too many people with behavioral and drug problems aren't getting the care they need, and this countywide network of clinics will serve those people.

Dr. Ostermeyer says this care is not charity care, strictly speaking. The cost is based on the patient's ability to pay.

Dr. Ostermeyer says Baylor College of Medicine's mental health care experts and substance abuse counselors will be assisted by a never ending supply of eager young psychiatric and primary care residents training for careers in those fields.

Dr. Betsy Schwartz of the Mental Health Association says taking behavioral care out into the community this way, and making it affordable and easy to get, will remove much of the stigma that's still associated with it and encourage more people to seek it out.

The hospital district will pay two thirds of the cost of this new service, and the private Hogg Foundation for Mental Illness will pay the remaining third. The clinics are up and operating now, and you can find a list of locations on the Harris County Hospital District website.