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'In some cases, over 2 hours away': Brazos Valley dealing with lack of mental health care options

Posted at 6:18 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 00:00:03-05

BRYAN, TX — After the closure of Rock Prairie Behavioral Health, the Brazos Valley has been without an acute residential psychiatric hospital since the summer of 2020, placing a huge strain on mental health resources locally.

“It was a major hit, and also it increased our level of effort with individuals who used to be driven over to Rock Prairie, not the individuals we are now getting involved with, in terms of evaluating and helping to facilitate hospitalization,” said Robert Reed, behavioral health operations director at MHMR Authority of Brazos Valley.

As a result of this lack of facilities, individuals are now having to be transported to the surrounding metropolitan areas to receive their proper care.

“We even had to solicit family members to transport those individuals who are involuntary, meeting criteria,” shared Reed.

In 2019, the sheriff’s office transported 767 people in crisis to a hospital; of those, 521 people went to Rock Prairie. Now, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office transports patients to Houston and Austin.

“The closure of the rock prairie facility means that the 500 or so people that were taken there for civil commitments, now, have to be taken to facilities, in some cases, that are over 2 hours away,” says Brazos County Sheriff, Wayne Dicky.

According to researchers, on a State level, over half of Texas counties have zero psychiatrists or psychologists, and two-thirds of all licensed psychologists live in five Texas counties. Texas also ranks in the bottom three states in mental health spending, leaving to question... does the State just not care about mental health?

“It’s not a Texas issue, it's a human issue, we tend to put a higher value on physical health than mental health. We kind of forget. that in a lot of ways, mental health is physical health,” says Carly McCord a clinical research assistant professor at Texas A&M’s department of psychiatry.

While fixing the need for mental health resources won’t happen overnight, the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation, along with local leaders, are working to increase local mental health resources. Hoping, to one day soon find a company to operate another acute residential behavioral health hospital, right here, in the Brazos Valley.

“Over the last month, we’ve seen some momentum. Our State Reps and local county leaders are working together to identify someone to come into the community, to offer those essential services,” says Sheriff Dicky.

While the cost to bring another psychiatric hospital is one that will take a company that sees this care.

For many of those who are already in crisis, the cost of help is truly priceless.