State health leaders expanding early psychosis treatment programs

Local News

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas will soon have 23 sites offering mental health services to young adults experiencing early-onset psychosis.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Coordinated Specialty Care Program is adding 13 new sites this year with help from a $4 million mental health block grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

“It’s critical we reach people early in their diagnosis to create the best opportunity for recovery,” Sonja Gaines, HHSC deputy executive commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disability and Behavioral Health Services, said in a released statement. “Connecting people with the right treatment and support can be life changing and dramatically alter the trajectory of a person’s future.”

Coordinated specialty care helps people ages 15 to 30 years old who have been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder within the last two years. A team of specialists provides medication management, case management, employment and education support and additional health care.

“It helps a person accomplish their goals,” Greg Hansch, executive director of the Texas chapter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Texas) said. “It engages families, which is often left out of traditional care.”

“It’s helping people at a very critical stage in their lives when they’re often transitioning from school to the workforce and it’s helping people stay connected to the social fabric of their lives,” he added.

Since 2014, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Coordinated Specialty Care Program has helped Texans graduate from high school and college, find stable housing, maintain employment and get on track with independent living. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind where there has been some loss of contact with reality. Key symptoms include hallucinations, delusions and confused thinking that leads to substantial life disruption. The institute says three out of 100 people will experience psychosis at some time in their lives and about 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the United States experience early psychosis each year.

Throughout Texas, local mental health and behavioral health authorities help provide services. In Austin, Integral Care’s Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RA1SE) program helps people who’ve experienced their first episode of psychosis within the last two years. Medical and mental health professionals will help clients for up to three years. The RA1SE team consists of a licensed clinician, skills trainers, an employment and educational specialist, a family partner, medical doctor and peer recovery specialists.

“We know that recovery is possible,” Program Manager Julie Guirguis said. “Many people who have had one episode of psychosis may not experience another episode or those that do go on to experience further ones know how to manage them and lead fulfilling lives.”

The news about the expansion of these services across Texas excites Guirguis, because she’s seen the results with Integral Care’s team.

“Having those early successes and that one-on-one support is actually more of a supportive environment for them to meet their goals.”

Julie Guirguis, program manager at Integral Care

According to the state, the 10 current sites served 520 people in the last fiscal year.  State health officials say they expect the program will be able to serve up to 700 people on a monthly basis across the 23 sites.

“At any given time, we need about 6,000 spots in the coordinated specialty care program,” Hansch said.

He characterizes this expansion into rural communities “a huge step in the right direction,” but acknowledges that there will still be limitations.

“We need more capacity than being able to serve 30 to 35 people at any given time, which is what any program can serve.”

Greg Hansch, National Alliance on Mental Illness – Texas chapter

The new sites that will be established in the summer of 2019 include:

  • Andrews Center Behavioral Healthcare, Tyler
  • Border Region Behavioral Health Center, Laredo
  • Central Counties Services, Temple
  • Coastal Plains Center, Portland
  • Community Healthcore, Longview
  • Denton County MHMR, Denton
  • LifePath Systems, Plano
  • Pecan Valley Centers, Granbury
  • Spindletop Center, Beaumont
  • Texana Center, Rosenberg
  • Texoma Community Center, Sherman
  • Tri County Behavioral Health, Conroe
  • West Texas Centers, Big Spring
Andrews Center Behavioral Healthcare is one of the 13 new sites under the expansion. (KETK News)

Dominique Guthrie, who is a supported employment and supported education specialist at Andrews Center Behavioral Healthcare, says the young adults experiencing early psychosis can receive care through the HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) Program.

“This program itself is one of the biggest needs,” she said. “A lot of people that I talk to, they’re saying they wish they had something like this closer to them – access to counseling, access to job support and access to seeing a therapist weekly. A lot of people just don’t have this in their area.”

You can find a list to all 23 sites here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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