Mental health facility

A security mirror at the mental health crisis respite center in Gatesville reflects a conversation between Allen Place, right, Dewey Jones and a member of the center staff during a tour of the center Jan. 16. A second mental health center is proposed for Copperas Cove.

Coryell County has backed efforts by Central Counties Services to build a 32-bed mental health crisis respite center on land in the Narrows Business and Industrial Park on the east side of Cove.

Eldon Tietje, executive director of Central Counties Services, has been negotiating with the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation on a suitable site in or near Narrows Park. Those talks have bogged down in recent weeks.

Polo Enriquez, executive director of the CCEDC, said the site Tietje chose for the center is prime business property that should be reserved for a tax-paying tenant. An alternate site recommended by Enriquez has been deemed “problematic” by Tietje.

“We are trying to work it out, but it is unresolved,” Tietje said last week. “There are potentially other options. We may have access to a facility in the Gatesville area.”

Dr. Karen Harrison, a local physician, is offering her enthusiastic support to Coryell County officials’ efforts to open a mental health crisis respite center in her hometown.

“This is definitely needed in our community,” Harrison wrote to County Judge John Firth in a Jan. 15 email. “Unfortunately, the mentally ill do not have much of a voice and many go without medical assistance. I would like to help or at least be a voice of support.”

Harrison said the county should consider putting the center on the west side of Copperas Cove near Sunset Lane and Casa Drive where many of the patients live.

She said many patients have trouble using public transit, such as the HOP, because of their mental condition.

“There is a large population of people with mental illness in Cove,” she said. “A lot of patients do not get their medications, and when they are not on their meds they tend to end up in jail or the emergency room.

“We see a fair amount of people retired from the military with mental illness. They are lucky, they have health insurance. They have access to care.”

Medicaid patients without a military connection have little support when it comes to mental health care. While some patients have insurance that provides medicine for mental illness, Harrison said, many do not.

Mental health care for the indigent in a state hospital is an expensive proposition for Texas taxpayers, according to a 2011 study done by Health Management Associates for the Texas Conference of Urban Counties.

The average daily cost of care in a state hospital is $401 and the average stay is 29 days for a total cost per admission of $11,629.

The county jail, where many mentally ill patients end up, is also a high-dollar option, according to the study. The average daily cost for a mentally ill jail inmate is $137 compared to $45 for other inmates. With an average jail stay of 80 days, the cost per admission is $10,960.

The average daily cost for community-based mental health services is $12 for an adult and $13 for a child, the study reported.

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