(El Paso, TX) September 03, 2008 -- The Institute for Policy and Economic Development at the University of Texas at El Paso has completed "Mental Health: A Looming Crisis in El Paso County," a three-part study of mental health services in the El Paso region.
This study was commissioned by the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce and championed by local elected officials and mental health leaders with the intention of using the findings to develop critical legislative items related to mental health in preparation for the 81st Texas State Legislative Session beginning in January 2009.
According to Susan Guerra, Chair of the Greater Chamber's Healthcare Council, this study provides an in-depth analysis of the gaps in the system and a picture of what lies ahead for this community unless these needs are addressed.
County Commissioner Pct. 2 Veronica Escobar, who helped lead the study, asserted that the next step is engaging the community and elected officials at all levels to make mental health funding a priority. "We as a community need to be ready to address these and all the other societal issues that are impacted by a weakened mental health system."
El Paso County Judge, Anthony Cobos, long-time advocate for the Border Children's Mental Health Collaborative, also highlights the need to address together these and other community problems.
"I praised everyone involved in this bold and groundbreaking collaboration to engage in a common effort to provide better consumer services, research, policy analysis and public education to the residents of this community affected by mental health issues," he says.
Gary Larcenaire, CEO of El Paso Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the State-designated mental health authority for El Paso County, says that providers are under-funded and caseloads continue to grow.
"What this study demonstrates is that when an individual with mental illness goes untreated, they end up in the hospital, the jail system or a homeless shelter," says Larcenaire.
All of these options are far more expensive in the long run than a robust system that allows both children and adults to receive the treatment they need, he concludes.
The research findings will be used to develop a set of comprehensive mental health legislative priorities in preparation for the 81st Legislative Session beginning January 2009.
The Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce's Health Care Council, mental health advocates and elected officials will release the findings of the study at a press conference scheduled for tomorrow, September 4th , 2008 at 11:30 a.m. at El Paso Greater Chamber of Commerce, 10 Civic Center Plaza.