POSTED: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 6:17pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 8:33pm
It's over between us - sort of. That's what city council told the county regarding its joint agreement with the El Paso Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center.
It was kind of like a break up. And while mental healthcare is a serious issue in El Paso, many of the top players have been lightly referring to this back and forth as a complicated marriage on the rocks.
"I will continue to respect you and love you, please join us," county commissioner Sergio Lewis pleaded.
"We're at third base, saying please join us, be at the table, and let's move forward," said UMC CEO Jim Valenti.
"It's not a marriage but dating, but if you just date you won't get any of the benefits," said UMC Board President
The final pleas from El Paso County and University Medical Center representatives made to city council begging them to stay on MHMR's board were in vain.
"Maybe I'm the aggressive groom and the city is the reluctant bride," said County Judge Veronica Escobar. "Frankly it's in the city's best interest to have a seat at the table. Their police force is directly impacted."
That's because health providers say if mentally ill don't get treatment, sometimes they end up in the emergency room - or jail. But the city says their heart just isn't in it.
"All of your arguments so far for the most part have been sentimental and emotional," said city representative Beto O'Rourke.
"Just because we disagree doesn't mean we don't care; we do care, I care," said city representative Carl Robinson.
"I think that is a product of a city council that is not interested," Escobar said after the vote. So what does this mean for the 8,000 people who rely on MHMR for help?
The city says it still pledges to give $100,000 a year to MHMR, so long as the money's there. But they won't partake in deciding its future. Escobar says, alimony just isn't enough.
"I am indeed disappointed, it's been a struggle to try to reeducate some of the same members of city council about why this is important," she said.
Some city council members said they want one group watching over what's grown up to be the product of this relationship. But despite the aggressive groom's pleas, the city's breaking it off.
"We hoped they would be at the table, they're not going to be," Escobar said.
The county says the next step is to take the city out of the agreement at their meeting next Monday, and also find new members for the MHMR board.