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Millions of dollars to improve care for mental patients

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Thousands of area residents across the panhandle could benefit from millions of dollars coming to our area.

Mental patients may soon be receiving improved care, which in turn could keep thousands out of jails and hospitals, reducing the amount of your taxpayer money used for these services.

Texas Panhandle Centers Projects Manager Donald Newsome says, "Instead of the taxpayer paying for people to be incarcerated or jailed, who really only need behavioral health type services, skills training, or supported employment services. It will help them. It will help the child and adolescent population because what we want to do is try to prevent hospitalizations."

For the first time, Medicaid and Medicare are giving Texas Panhandle Centers millions of dollars to enhance services and make them more accessible throughout the panhandle. It would help people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression, behavioral issues, and substance abuse problems.

The center wants to offer psychiatry and physician services at the same location. Director of Planning Jim Womack says, "For example, somebody with a serious mental illness. If they're seeing two doctors, say they're seeing our psychiatrist then seeing a primary health care physician. They may be getting medications that contradict each other. So they work against each other. If they're just seeing that one provider, that way they can keep track of medications."

Womack says they want to address the gap in services. He says, "We don't have an intensive out-patient substance abuse treatment program until we started this one. If you can intervene earlier with kids when kids are in developmental health issues, they're more likely to respond to treatments, and keep them out of the criminal justice system."

They want to work with area schools, expand programs outside of Amarillo every year to see more patients in rural areas, and offer treatment to those who do not have insurance or are under-insured.

The center says these efforts could contribute to the area's economy. Womack says, "If you can provide treatment and keep people in their homes, they can, you know, be productive citizens, continue to pay taxes, contribute to local economy. Whereas if they were incarcerated or in the hospital, you know taxes could be used to pay for that."

 

Jessica Abuchaibe, NewsChannel 10. 

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