For people who experience psychosis, getting care early on helps them better manage symptoms and lead productive lives. But for those living in rural Texas, care is often impossible to find. And without it, those living with psychosis can struggle to stay employed, maintain relationships or simply move through the world.
Now, $4 million from a block grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, will help Texas Health and Human Services bring its Coordinated Specialty Care program for early onset psychosis to 13 more mental health clinics, including in rural areas.
Greg Hansch is executive director of the Texas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. He says it can be difficult for those living with psychosis to get access to the right care at the right time because most Texas counties don’t have psychiatrists readily available.
“Psychosis is a symptom, not a diagnosis. It essentially means losing touch with reality. … It can be profoundly disabling, confusing and can cause someone to lose connection with the social fabric of their lives,” Hansch says. “And this is what specialty care aims to interrupt.”
The speciality care teams in urban areas are in homeless shelters and mental health hospitals – places where people with under- or untreated psychosis often end up, Hansch says.
Even with this new initiative, though, he says it’s not enough.
“Over the last five years, we’ve started to trickle towards ensuring that people can receive that care,” Hansch says. “But still, after this recent appropriation, we’re still only going to see about 20% of the needed capacity met, so it still is something that needs to continue to be worked on.”
Hansch says the problem is especially pervasive in rural areas where people are dealing with mental health issues and there’s no one around to help them. He’s already looking toward the next legislative session, in 2021, to try to change this.
“Hopefully in the next legislative session we can get the Texas Legislature to step up to the plate because there is still a gap here, in everyone who needs this care, being able to access it.”
Support for Texas Standard’s ”Spotlight on Health” project is provided by St. David’s Foundation.
Written by Marina Marquez.