San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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September 2nd, 2008
CTMC raises mental health awareness

From Central Texas Medical Center

Each year several people in the United States, including members of our community, are diagnosed with some type of mental illness and several attempt suicide. Preventative care and assistance by medical professionals is often needed in order to ensure the safety of such individuals and those around them. As an integral part of care delivery and as a part of suicide prevention week (nationally recognized during the first week of September), Central Texas Medical Center is helping spread awareness about suicide prevention and working with community partners to better serve those suffering with a mental illness.

In 2005 CTMC was one of five institutions (San Marcos Police Department, Hays County Sheriff’s Department, Hill Country MHMR, Texas State University, and
CTMC) that met informally as the Emergency Mental Health Task Force to explore ways all agencies involved with clients suffering from mental illness could work together. Each agency contributed $1000, except San Marcos Police Department which contributed $2000, for a mental health needs evaluation of the San Marcos area and provided testimony at the state level to appeal for money to create community crisis respite centers.

With the help of dedicated advocates from all over the state, the legislature responded to the appeals and funded the creation of the Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT). Their mission is to provide professional and humane response to individuals in a mental health crisis while using the least restrictive intervention and treatment methods possible. In addition to prompt screening and assessment, they provide crisis resolution and linkage to appropriate community resource referrals. Because the San Marcos community was already organized and taking a lead in this issue, Hill Country MHMR established an MCOT team in San Marcos when these State funds became available.

“As an original member of the Task Force, I am encouraged that grass root efforts such as ours can gain momentum and achieve needed services for our community,” said Donna Murphree, Manager of Behavioral Health at CTMC. “I am privileged to work with the people in the various agencies who share my passion for helping those suffering with mental illness.”

Murphree is currently chairing the MCOT Subcommittee for Suicide Prevention. The subcommittee will begin putting in place opportunities for interested community members to have training in suicide prevention and offer materials to promote awareness and education.

The needs for these services are made apparent by the statistics. In 2003, 2,355 Texans died as a result of suicide-more than a 15 percent increase over the number reported just five years earlier. That’s more than the 1,519 homicides that occurred in Texas in 2003 and significantly more than the 1,007 Texans who died from HIV that year. Suicide in Texas is a serious public health concern-and one that might be addressed successfully through a coordinated and comprehensive approach aimed at prevention.

Local mental health services and procedures will continue to grow and improve thanks to the joint effort of caring people from CTMC, Hill Country MHMR, San Marcos PD, Hays County Sheriff’s Office, Judges Warner and Rodriguez, Texas State University, Kyle PD, Greater San Marcos Youth Council, Hays County Juvenile Justice Center, NAMI, the Austin State Hospital, The Oaks Treatment Center, Laurel Ridge Treatment Center, and a host of interested community members who have attended the meetings. These entities meet monthly at the Scheib Center to discuss procedures and issues that arise in the delivery of services to the mentally ill.

For more information about mental illnesses and suicide prevention please contact Scheib MHMR 392-7151, CTMC Heritage Program for Senior Adults 512-392-1366, The Jason Foundation l-877-778-2275, or Texas Suicide Prevention Crisis Line l-800-273-8255. For psychiatric emergencies call 1-877-466-0660 or 911.

— CLAY DeSTEFANO

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