Public Forum Held to Address State Hospital Problems

by Anayeli Ruiz
NewsWest 9

BIG SPRING - Too many patients and not enough room. It's a major problem for state hospitals across Texas, they're bursting at the seams. Now, health officials are trying to find a solution.

The Department of State services is turning to their own employees and the community for help. One of five public hearings on the capacity issue was held on Friday at the State Hospital in Big Spring.

"For patients across the Basin, getting into a State Hospital is a challenge these days.      Capacity is the main problem," Shelley Smith, CEO of MHMR, said. "Can we prevent from patients from being diverted all over the state when hospitals are full?"

Psychiatrists, family members, and administrators are took part in this public hearing. The goal is to address the growing need for mental health services. For law enforcement, it's especially a challenge.

"We do a lot of the diversion, so we play a huge role in this and it takes law enforcement off the street across the State of Texas to work on state hospital issues," Howard County Sheriff, Stan Parker, said.

In smaller counties with fewer deputies on the payroll, it's a major obstacle, but trying to solve the problem doesn't come in a neat package.

"It's still being formulated. We are looking at long term residential programs in the community, we are looking to reduce the amount of time law enforcement spends with patients, lots of ideas still floating around right now," Smith said.

The final recommendations made at every public hearing will be presented to the state.

"The task force is writing a proposal or paper.  The paper is due to the Department of State Health Services in September this year," Smith said.

With that information, state legislators are hoping to implement policies to address the issue.