McMullen County Health Center in Tilden held the grand opening of its behavioral health clinic.
Atascosa Health Center CEO Monty Small credited Camino Real Community Services Executive Director Emma Garcia and Angela Karsky (PA-C) with showing that Tilden is an important place for behavioral health.
“[Emma] is the behavioral health champion. She is there and she leads us,” Small said.
The program is funded by the 1115 Transformation Waiver, a grant for which community health centers are eligible.
“We, the 39 community health centers of Texas, were identified as eligible recipients of these dollars, so we quickly went to work,” Garcia said. “There were three areas of focus. My main pet project was integration. I sat through too many trainings and too many sessions to ignore that the populations that we serve, those that suffer from severe, persistent mental illness, die 25 to 30 years before the general population. They were dying from untreated chronic conditions — diabetes, heart disease, obesity — things that plague the general population, but people generally go to their doctor, follow their instructions, take their medications. When you overlay a mental illness over those conditions, you don’t have the clarity of thought, and we end up with that type of statistic. I said we need to do something different.”
Garcia said she wanted to have a space dedicated to behavioral health and not have the health center lose resources.
Garcia said that McMullen County Judge James Teal advocated for the behavioral health clinic and for partnerships with service providers.
Teal and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar noted the aspect of treating opioid addiction in mental health services.
“In the last few years, we’ve added billions of dollars to address the opioid issue,” Cuellar said.
John Koenig of Camino Real said that previously, people who lived around Tilden had to go to Jourdanton for these services, but now do not need to make the drive.
Karsky said that the behavioral health clinic opened employment opportunities for patient advocates and others.
“So often, we’ve come to the judge, saying we need someone to help people in the community with services we’ve not been able to provide, helping people getting medical supplies and helping people get on disability,” she said, adding that the clinic was able to employ two providers living in Tilden who were previously unemployed.
Karsky noted that 61 people who have come to the clinic for these services include some from other counties who do not want to go to counseling in their own counties.
“We’ve got people coming in more and more now,” she said.