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The southwestern region of Texas has been blanketed in issues of substance abuse for years. Many who live in Southwest Texas suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism — conditions that are often complicated by other issues, like mental health disorders. Around 53 percent of people dealing with drug abuse and 37 percent who engage in alcohol abuse also struggle with serious mental health disorders.1
Cases of co-occurring disorders require a joint effort to treat both the substance dependency and the mental health issue simultaneously. Both treatments must work together as a unit in rehabilitating the client.
The southwestern region of Texas is a densely populated melting pot of different cultures and lifestyles. Per 2014 census results, populations of cities in Southwest Texas include:
McAllen is home to just one substance abuse treatment facility, but the facilities does offer services for individuals suffering from mental health disorders.2 In Laredo, three facilities boast numerous treatment options between them. Care for mental illnesses is available and so is residential care for those who need more intensive treatment.
Facilities in the large city also accept Medicaid and offer payment assistance and sliding scale programs to help those in need pay for treatment. For the 30.8 percent of Laredo’s residents that are living below the federal poverty level, this can be a serious help in accessing treatment. That poverty rate is far higher than the state’s average at 17.6 percent.
In Uvalde, one treatment facility exists, offering both substance abuse rehabilitation services and mental health treatment.3 Private insurance and Medicaid are both accepted at this center. In addition, individuals who can prove financial hardship may be eligible to make payments on a sliding scale-based plan. With this plan, regular payments can be structured so they are aligned with a person’s monthly income. This helps individuals who need treatment to get care at a cost that is reasonably fair based on their financial circumstances. With the median per capita annual income being just $15,980 in Uvalde, when averaged across 2009 through 2013, compared to $26,019 statewide, this comes as a big help to many in the small town.
The single facility available in Carrizo Springs treats both substance abuse and mental illness.4 It too offers sliding scale payment options and accepts Medicaid, in addition to private insurance. There were 400,790 people enrolled in Medicaid assistance programs in Texas as of 2012.5
San Angelo houses five treatment centers, two of which manage mental health disorders.6 Four facilities in the city accept Medicaid insurance, and three centers give clients the option of paying through sliding scale programs or with the assistance of funding from the center itself.
Admissions to treatment across the state have declined in recent years. In 2011, 43,216 people entered treatment for drug and/or alcohol abuse in Texas.7 Rates of alcohol abuse were highest among all substances, with 6,490 people reporting alcohol alone being their problem, and another 5,909 citing it as part of a poly-drug abuse issue. Marijuana abuse was reported by 10,255 people entering treatment that year.
In 2013, treatment numbers declined a bit to 39,676. Alcohol-only admissions totaled 5,931 that year, while 5,150 sought treatment for alcohol along with other drugs. There were 8,375 people in treatment across Texas for marijuana abuse. Many of these individuals who have completed treatment did so by way of therapy modules like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and support groups that helped them along the way.
Across the state, the percentage of the population that reported past-month illicit drug abuse has reached 7.32 percent while the nationwide rate is higher at 8.82 percent.
Deaths from methamphetamine have been increasing steadily over the years in Texas. While the problem is concentrated in the southeastern region, it reaches across the state and into the southwestern region as well. Between 1999 and 2006, 650 people died after ingesting methamphetamines, and that number rose drastically in following years. From 2007 to 2012, there were 985 deaths stemming from methamphetamines in the state. In 2009, 97 samples gathered from substances seized in drug busts contained the deadly drug. By 2013, the drug was detected in 246 samples.
Alcohol abuse is highly prevalent in Southwest Texas. In 2013, 99,195 arrests were made for driving under the influence in the state — more than any other state that year. As a result of such driving practices, 1,337 people died in accidents that year.
Suicide claims 9.68 per 100,000 deaths in Uvalde County; 5.2 per 100,000 in Hidalgo County; 5.94 per 100,000 deaths in Webb County; 10.6 per 100,000 in Dimmit County; and 14.02 per 100,000 deaths in Tom Green County.8
A DUI arrest comes with serious consequences for the driver. Many who are convicted will be required to install a Breathalyzer in their vehicles that doesn’t allow them to start the ignition until they blow in it and confirm there is no alcohol on their breath. Individuals who get caught just one time driving under the influence face three days to six months in jail and fines up to $2,000. Drink and drive repeatedly, and you may find yourself in prison for as long as two years and owing the state as much as $10,000 in fines. In addition, licenses are suspended in Texas for a minimum of three months on the first DUI offense and as long as two years for three or more offenses.
The list of requirements that substance abuse treatment facilities must adhere to in order to stay in operation is extensive. Rehabilitation centers that maintain accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities are the most notable and worthy of an individual’s time and investment in treatment. A facility’s treatment programs and business practices are scrutinized during the accreditation screening process. While upper-level management indeed matters to an individual’s treatment experience, the staff members who clients interact with daily is just as important, if not more so.
For example, if clients enter treatment showing signs of depression or serious mental health disorders like schizophrenia, they need care for the mental health issue on top of their substance abuse problems. Mental illness influences substance abuse in many ways. Individuals battling depression may turn to alcohol to numb the pain of their guilt or self-loathing thoughts. They might reach for a bottle of OxyContin or line of coke in an attempt to deal with symptoms of their mental health issues. Around 833,000 adults and 288,000 kids in Texas are living with mental health disorders. For those struggling with both mental illness and substance abuse issues, comprehensive care that addresses both conditions is imperative.
When screening potential facilities in Southwest Texas, consider the employees they have on staff. If mental health screening is offered at intake, someone with mental health expertise must complete it. Ensure there are physicians on staff who are capable of rendering mental health diagnoses and prescribing medication, if appropriate. Counselors are required to go through extensive training and have education to back up their credentials.
Individuals who need help locating resources in southwestern Texas may find the Association of Substance Abuse Programs and the Texas Department of State Health Services to be helpful.
When most people think about Southwest Texas, they think about cactus marching away into a distant horizon, made pink with the setting sun. It is a pretty picture, and it is made even prettier with sobriety. People who no longer rely on drugs and alcohol can learn to love the people, places, and things that surround them every day. They can tap into the beauty of nature and the healing of life. They can really enjoy their communities.
That healing could happen to anyone who chooses to get help in an addiction recovery center. While Southwest Texas does not have as many of these centers as other parts of the state, it is home to a number of reputable programs that can help people in need. This is a sampling of the treatment programs available:
This is just a sampling of the treatment programs available to you in Southwest Texas. Remember that your local hospital, mental health clinic, or psychiatrist might also offer therapies that can help. The key is to get started. As soon as you make that decision, your whole life could change.