Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Texas county opens new mental health peer support center

From KXXV-TV in Texas:

MEXIA, Texas -- It's no surprise that many social services are facing major budget cuts. But with the help of the Heart of Texas Region Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center, a new Peer Support Center opened its doors to the public Jan. 31.

The newest facility is located at 700 Hwy 171 West in Mexia, Texas. After years of only having a peer program in Waco, the Limestone County MHMR decided it was time to open a center for the residents in Limestone and Freestone counties.

"It's just a little too far for the Fairfield individuals to drive all the way to Waco and the same as well as Mexia it's just a little too far," said Melinda Bonds, a supervisor for the Heart of Texas MHMR.

"This is very needed for the area you know a lot of people they use county transportation and they can't get to Waco," said Wayne Fortson, a Limestone County MHMR patient.

The new facility will be run by volunteers as well as current and past MHMR patients. It will serve individuals, including veterans, who have any type of mental health issue or mental illness.

Anyone with a mental illness can participate in the peer program free of charge as long as they bring a lunch. The program will include activities like fitness classes, cooking classes or going on field trips.

Wayne Fortson, of Mexia, has been battling schizophrenia, low grade depression and anxiety for three years now and says the Limestone County MHMR's clinical services have helped him overcome at least two of those illnesses.

"I'm very glad to say the first two have been vanquished and the third thing, a center like this will help me as well as other people but I want to give back."

Fortson plans on volunteering his time at the new peer support center to help others overcome their illnesses as well as finally getting rid of his anxiety.

Bonds told News Channel 25 there are around 3,000 people with mental illness living in both Freestone and Limestone counties who now have a safe place to go and socialize.

"Right now we're just kind of waiting for them to get into trouble and to get off their medicine and we find a bed for them somewhere and that funding is at risk," said Limestone County Judge, Daniel Burkeen.

Burkeen says a lot of times citizens who suffer from mental illness end up on the streets and having a center open like this gives those citizens some structure.

With less money likely coming from the state, Burkeen also says the new facility will help local law enforcement cut costs.

"It's a lot of expense to us locally. We have to get someone to transport someone to Austin or even Waco during the day and we don't have people just sitting around waiting to do that so we have to pull someone in or law enforcement has to pull someone in."

The Heart of Texas Region MHMR donated some money to help fund the Mexia Support Center and they will also be paying for the Internet for the computer lab as well as cover some other costs. However, the furniture was donated by Baylor University and the rest of the program will be covered by community donations.