State Funding for Mental Health Could Be Cut

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

BIG SPRING - Hundreds of West Texas adults and children with mental health issues could be the latest group hurt by state budget cuts.

The Texas budget is in such a deep hole, lawmakers are trying to find any possible way to save on spending.

But with the most recent numbers proposed by legislators, hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to treat people with mental health issues would be lost and it's sure to have an effect here in the Permian Basin.

"This is a very vulnerable population, they need these services," Shelley Smith, CEO of West Texas Centers, said.

Proposed state budget cuts are looming and that has mental health officials worried.

The cuts would slash thousands of dollars that help provide services for people and families with mental health disabilities.

"We're working closely with our legislative staff and Senator offices to make them very aware of the repercussions in the community if these cuts go through," Smith said.

Together, West Texas Centers and the Permian Basin Community Centers serve 31 counties, totaling to more than 5,000 people a month who use their outpatient services. Those include mental retardation programs and early childhood intervention services for babies and toddlers.

Smith said without funding, families would feel the impact.

"If those funds are taken away, the families may not have the option to bring their loved ones to us for those services," she said. "That could potentially be families that are able to go to work because their loved ones are with us during the day and they may not be able to do that."

And the community would be effected by it, in more ways than one.

"The schools are going to have difficulty educating these children and the parents are going to have difficulty managing the behavior," Smith said. "Unfortunately, sometimes people with mental illness become involved with the criminal justice system and so we have more people in jail with mental illness that's untreated."

She said this is the biggest cut she's ever experienced, but she hopes lawmakers will see just how valuable and vital these services are to West Texas adults and children.

"Research has proven over and over, with early intervention a lot of these babies with developmental delays, as they get older, you don't see those delays because they're provided those services early in life," Smith said. "We're already very under funded in this area so taking further cuts would be devastating to our communities."