POSTED: Monday, August 9, 2010 - 3:24pm
UPDATED: Friday, October 8, 2010 - 12:20pm
El Paso - Crippling budget cuts in El Paso County mean just about everything is on the chopping block. It's no different for El Paso Mental Health and Mental Retardation.
County Commissioners are debating whether to strip the MHMR "Emergency Room Diversion Program" which houses more than one-thousand of its clients in private mental health hospitals. Cutting this program would help save the County $400,000. But, MHMR argues the cost to the community would be much greater in the long run.
The ultimate safety net is going to be the University Medical Center and jail. Those two cost options are far more expensive to this local community than preventative medicine. It's just like diabetes, checking your cholesterol you don't want to neglect these things," says the facility's CEO, Gary Larcenaire.
Commissioner Dan Haggerty says in these difficult economic times, anything is on the table. "We have a mandate from the state of Texas to take care of mental health people. At what level we fund that is our call. You couldn't print money fast enough to take care of all the mental health issues. Where do you draw the line?," Haggerty suggests.
Haggerty knows there's nothing comfortable about the situation MHMR's most vulnerable patients face.
"To say people should be in jail because they have a disease as opposed to being a criminal, that's just wrong. They don't deserve to be in jail, they need treatment."
County Commissioners will vote on the issue next Monday. MHMR officials fear that if the County doesn't come through, it will lose the state matching funds of more than one million dollars.