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I recently heard former Governor Perry state that Texas has the 12th largest economy in the world. Yet Texas ranks 49th in the country in terms of money spent on behavioral health-mental health and substance abuse. As a result, the burden of addressing behavioral health needs falls upon communities and leads to increased rates of incarceration and higher use of public hospital emergency rooms, homeless shelters, and the foster care system. Of the fifty states Texas is sixth in the proportion of population that is incarcerated with 1,130 per 100,000 residents under lock and key. Apparently we do not have a problem building more jails and prisons. A study of 61,000 Texas prison inmates showed that those with a co-occurring psychiatric and substance use disorder exhibited a substantially higher risk of multiple incarcerations over a 6-year period compared to inmates with psychiatric disorders alone or substance use disorders alone. “In 2008, 1,900 out of 11,000 inmates, or 17.3 percent, in the Harris County Jail were on psychotropic medications. Spending on mental health care in the jail had risen to $24 million per year, “and the combined cost of incarcerating and treating the mentally ill is $87 million annually.” A county official noted: “Jails have become the psychiatric hospitals of the United States.’” However, once released there is no infrastructure of services to receive an inmate at 3 or 4am in the morning. A 1997 study revealed that “About 8 in 10 state prisoners who had a mental health problem said they had used alcohol or drugs in the month before the offense, compared to 7 in 10 without a mental problem. State prisoners who had a mental health problem had similar rates of drug (63%) or alcohol (62%) use in the month before the offense…”

So what is the point other than Texas has a broken system that will require more than this note to fix it? The BES Group addresses all the above issues and, if a person is ready, they can avoid TDC and the Harris County Jail from being their substance abuse and behavioral health provider. All BES Group clients that are involved in an outpatient substance abuse program must meet at least once with a therapist to assess any other needs that might otherwise keep a client from being successfully in abstaining from drugs and in life. It has been proven that it is necessary to address issue, mental health and substance abuse, simultaneously when the co occur in order for the client to be successful. The BES Group is not selective and seeks to turn no one away and has state funding available for those that are otherwise uninsured or unable to pay for their treatment. That funding also provides for a client to see  a therapist once a week and allows for case management between the substance abuse counselor and therapist. I am a person who watches the news daily. If it were me, I would rather have the staff at the BES Group provide for my needs than a policeman or a prison guard.


Richard Dole, LCSW


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