Mental health assistance is a fundamental need – as fundamental as food, clothing and shelter.
In 2015, about 131,000 of an estimated 779,528 population in Denton County met the criteria for a diagnosable mental health concern.
Using 2019 numbers, around 144,323 people of an estimated 859,064 population could today meet the criteria for receiving mental health assistance.
The numbers reflect 16.8 percent of the population. That equates to almost one out of every five residents in Denton County who deal with mental health issues.
It can be your neighbor, coworker, family member or friend. Chances are you already are close to someone who is dealing with a diagnosable mental health issue.
While more people are talking about mental health these days, a stigma still exists that keeps many silent about their issues.
Our role collectively should be to decrease the stigma, talk openly about mental health issues and build our resources to help people cope.
Just like any other illness, it requires prompt diagnosis and treatment.
According to the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, tens of thousands in poverty who suffer from mental illness repeatedly cycle through jails, emergency rooms and hospitals. While services exist that have proven effective, Texas currently only has the capacity to serve one in seven of the estimated 22,000 at the poverty level.
Taxpayers foot the bill for the lack of available mental health care, paying an estimated $1.4 billion in emergency room costs, $450 million in local jail costs, $230 million in local juvenile justice system expenses and potentially billions in potential Medicaid physical health spending.
The House Select Committee on Mental Health effectively outlines the situation across Texas: “In short, the problems will not simply go away on their own. In fact, they will only increase as Texas continues to grow and so will the costs – loss in human potential; detrimental social impact on families, communities and businesses; and financially. Because mental health affects so many segments in our daily lives, it is absolutely one of the most critical areas of concern facing Texas today.”
In Denton County, the single largest in-patient facility for behavior health is the county jail. In fact, Denton County is one of the lowest funded counties in the lowest funded states in terms of mental health expenses per capita.
Several years ago, United Way of Denton County worked with the Denton County MHMR, both as 501c3 nonprofit organizations, to create a Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership Team.
The term “behavioral” is preferred because it not only deals with mental health conditions such as depression or bipolar disorder but also substance abuse and other addictions.
The Behavioral Health Leadership Team consists of representatives from Commissioners Court, city and town councils, hospitals, health department, higher education, law enforcement and others.
Team goals are to:
- Improve access to mental health care
- Create conversations to reduce the stigma about mental health
- Analyze data to assess gaps in mental health services
- Work with law enforcement and the courts to help restore lives
Individuals can call 1-800-762-0157 any time they have a mental health crisis or are dealing with a family member or friend suffering from a mental health crisis.
Manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, hotline staff can provide information, support, intake appointments, intervention and more.
In addition, a local directory for mental health resources is available at www.unitedwaydenton.org/mental-health-crisis-support.
The Denton County MHMR Center in Denton can be reached by calling 940-381-5000.
There is absolutely no reason anyone should go hungry, be without shelter and not receive mental health services. Let us all work together to help solve these often co-existing issues.
Now through Sept. 19, 2019, you can help make a difference by donating through the North Texas Giving Day to the organization of your choice. You can search for local nonprofits, including the Denton County MHMR, by visiting www.northtexasgivingday.org/nonprofits.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Ron Marchant, who has served as commissioner since 2007, is a lifelong resident of Carrollton where he served on the city council, worked as Precinct 6 Justice of the Peace and has been actively involved in a number of other civic organizations. He can be reached at 972-434-7140 or at Ronald.Marchant@dentoncounty.com.