Behavioral health concerns remain a pressing need across the country. Here are some of the major behavioral health stories circulating in Texas in the past few weeks.
Texas A&M Nursing Partners With Rural Texas Providers
Researchers with Texas A&M University College of Nursing are forming an academic-practice partnership with rural healthcare providers at five clinical sites in Central Texas. This collaboration aims to integrate behavioral health and primary care, increase care access in the region, and provide nursing education opportunities.
This partnership is funded by a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The partnership at these different sites will provide primary care, led by family nurse practitioners (FNPs), that is integrated with behavioral health services. This will include onsite and telehealth care, with an emphasis on preventing and treating opioid use disorder.
Agreement Could Direct Opioid Settlement to Rural Texas
A group of Texas counties and cities have reached an agreement with the state Attorney General’s office that could allow opioid settlement funds to be directed to rural communities struggling the most with the opioid crisis. The agreement will allow Texas state and county representatives to be included in all negotiations now being conducted with opioid drug distributors and manufacturers.
Under the agreement, if a settlement is reached, an allocation structure will guarantee a 15-percent share of the settlement funds to state and local governments. The Texas Opioid Council will administer the other 70 percent to treatment programs operated by 20 regional health care partnerships across the state.
Texas Officials Exploring Mental Health Options for Inmates
Officials and mental health providers in Texas are seeking ways for county jail inmates with mental health concerns to avoid an overwhelmed state hospital system. Under the policy of “competency restoration,” most individuals in Texas who are found incompetent to stand trial must receive treatment at a state hospital. At the beginning of 2020, more than 900 individuals were on a waitlist for such treatment.
Texas is currently redesigning state hospitals to expand capacity. However, this may not alleviate the demand. Other limitations include housing for waitlisted inmates, treatment for severe psychiatric conditions, and a limited supply of rural mental health providers. Outpatient programs and jail-based, telepsychiatry programs could help reduce the waitlist. Currently, Lubbock is the state’s only mental health authority to use telemedicine inside jails, with competency restored in half the cases so far.
Telehealth Expands Mental Health Access in Rural Texas
As rural areas of Texas struggle with limited behavioral health access, the recent expansion of telehealth offers some relief. Behavioral health providers and authorities expanded their services after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott temporarily waived restrictions on telehealth in April in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This has helped provide vital support to rural areas, where residents struggle with limited access to behavioral health resources, as well as lower income and higher rates of suicide and drug overdose.
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