New Mental Health Hospital to Help West Texas Law Enforcement

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

NewsWest 9 took you on the first tour of the area's new Behavioral Hospital when it first went under renovation.

On Monday, they opened their doors and they let NewsWest 9 back inside for a firsthand look at the finished product.  Not only will this new hospital provide emergency psychiatric care for patients traveling all over the state to get help, but it will also help local law enforcement.

We spoke with the Ector County Sheriff's office to find out why they're so excited about this new facility.

"We have a very great need," Deputy Bobby Hodges, with the Ector County Sheriff's Department, said.

Local law enforcement says they're the most often overlooked, but a facility for mentally ill patients is one of West Texas' greatest needs. 3 Ector County officers are designated to deal with mental health patients. When Deputy Hodges signed on to work with mentally ill cases back in '93 this problem took him by surprise.

"I didn't have any idea the need that the community had," Hodges said. "I never would have dreamed that."

Mental health patients have been going as far away as El Paso, San Antonio, and East Texas to get help.

"Sometimes they get violent," Hodges said. "It's kind of hard to tell on some of them. These people are in need. They have mental health problems and you just don't know."

And a long drive with a mental health patient takes the much-needed officers off the streets.

"It takes away from our job duties," Hodges said.

Last October through December, Ector County officers made 72 calls and out of those they had to transport 38 out of the County to receive treatment. And so far this month, they've had 39 calls.

"With 400,000 people and no acute psychiatric beds in the Permian Basin, about 4% of the population at any given time needs some type of mental health treatment," Michael Cornelison, CEO BCA Permian Basin Behavioral Hospital, said.

That's why the new BCA Behavioral Hospital promises a relief for county law enforcement and emergency rooms.

"If the emergency room calls, we'll have somebody out there within 30 minutes to see that patient," Cornelison said. "And then it's a 15 minute drive from any emergency room here in the Permian Basin in the immediate area to the hospital."

"It will definitely help," Hodges said. "It will help on our manpower, and it gets us back on the streets a lot quicker."