Texas urged to double the number of early psychosis treatment programs


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas only has 10 programs serving young adults who experience early psychosis, which involves hallucinations or delusions. Mental health advocates are pushing for the state to allocate enough funding to double the number of coordinated specialty care programs next legislative session.

Twenty-six-year-old Matt (he’s asked us to shield his last name for privacy reasons) started getting help from Integral Care’s Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RA1SE) program about half a year ago. The program helps people ages 15-30 who’ve experienced their first episode of psychosis within the past two years.

“I had a schizophrenic break at work,” Matt said. “I kind of lost everything. I went to the hospital and I was looking for help. I was looking at sober homes, group homes and different programs.”

One of the counselors at Integral Care recommended Matt seek help from RA1SE. Matt says the program’s care team has guided him towards different opportunities to help him rebuild.

“I started with nothing,” Matt said. “I lost my job and I was basically living out of my car. When I joined the RA1SE program, with their team, I was able to find employment, learn some money management skills and learn some life skills.”

Early psychosis is often associated with schizophrenia. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year. Three out of 100 people are affected by psychosis at some point in their lives. RA1SE is an example of coordinated specialty care, which mental health experts say helps lead to the best outcomes.

“We bring the services out to them, so we’re removing those barriers of transportation or having to keep strict appointment times,” Laura Slocum, crisis services and justice initiatives practice administrator, said.

Coordinated specialty care involves services such as case management, help with work and school, substance use recovery skills, as well as additional health care.  

“Goals could include working on family relationships, friend or romantic relationships, working on overall medical or mental health and one of the more popular aspects of the RA1SE program is that every client has the opportunity to work with RA1SE’s supportive employment and education specialist,” Slocum said. “Her sole focus is to work with clients on what their individual employment and educational goals are.”

Greg Hansch, with NAMI Texas, says their organization has been working with other mental health advocates to expand similar programs to other parts of Texas.  

“You have 10 programs with 12 teams and each team serves about 30 people at any given time,” Hansch said. “That’s only a fraction of what the need is.”

Hansch said when people who’ve experienced early psychosis can’t access treatment, it doesn’t only impact the individual.

“It impacts their community and it has an impact on the economy,” he said. “So we need to look at it in a holistic sense and invest in what works, not just best for the person, but society overall.”

Hansch says it will take about $8.5 million over a biennium to double the number of coordinated specialty care programs in Texas. NAMI Texas hopes the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will request this additional funding from the state legislature next session.

“For most of the local mental health authorities’ service areas, there is no team,” Hansch said. “So in those areas, when there is an interest in establishing this programming, if funding is made available, we’d like to see resources sent in that direction. For the areas of the state where there’s only one team, but there’s a much greater need, like some of the urban areas where there are more than 30 people experiencing psychosis at any given time, we’d like to see an investment made to expand those teams.”

The RA1SE program at Integral Care is often serving clients at capacity and there’s always ongoing interest, according to Slocum. She says if there were opportunities to increase funding, they could better serve the community’s needs.

“The more that people thrive and live to their full potential, our community benefits from that,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a written statement saying the agency is exploring additional funding opportunities to address the needs for more of these services.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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