Why Mental and Behavioral Health Matter in Bexar County

By Dr. Caroline D. Bergeron, Director of Research and Evaluation, The Health Collaborative
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

We all know someone who has a mental illness. In fact, according to the National Institute on Mental Health, one in six U.S. adults currently lives with a mental illness.1

Many of these adults had symptoms when they were younger, but they were never diagnosed or treated.2 We understand that behavioral and mental well-being is an important concern in Bexar County. It was identified as a key area in our 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment3 and was the focus of collaborative efforts in our 2017 Healthy Bexar Plan.4

The Community Health Improvement Plan work group on behavioral and mental well-being is composed of key community leaders in mental health, including the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, Clarity Child Guidance Center, The Center for Health Care Services, the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council and University Health System, among others. These partners are working together several times a month to build what will be a county “committed to hope and recovery through open conversations on emotional wellness, substance-related disorder and mental health.”4

Our vision for Bexar County is to have integrated preventive care and clinical treatment that is community based and family and youth oriented. This means preventing unnecessary visits to the emergency department because of an untreated or undiagnosed mental illness or substance-related disorder. It means understanding that mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and depression can be associated with risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse. But, most importantly, it’s seeing the big picture of how behavioral and mental well-being can impact any aspect of an individual’s life including whether they go to school, can keep a job and have a roof over their heads.

The Health Collaborative is currently building a solution to this problem with an evidence-based, nationally certified model called the Pathways Community HUB. The core focus of this intervention is to have community health workers find individuals at risk for some of these social needs — also called social determinants of health — such as mental illness, housing, transportation and food, and work with them until each specific need is met. What is great about this model is that there can only be one promoter(a) per family, which means that families do not have to repeat their story seven to 10 times to each of their case workers. It also eliminates duplication across sectors. Community health workers keep track of all their efforts to meet a person’s need, which helps to show how valuable this profession is, but also how challenging their work can be. Promoters are compensated throughout their hard work with each individual client, but also at the end for achieving success (e.g., helping a family settle in a stable home). The Pathways Community HUB is effective to address all the risk factors that prevent a person — child, parent or older adult — to successfully contribute to our community. If you would like to learn more about this intervention, please contact the Health Collaborative at info@healthcollaborative.net.

As we continue to promote emotional and mental well-being across all ages, we especially encourage our youth in the community to celebrate with us why Young Minds Matter — by attending the 2018 A Beautiful Mind event. This free event will be held on Saturday, May 5, at the Cornerstone Church. For more information, please visit youngmindsmatter.com.