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With early and effective treatment, people suffering from mental health issues can lead full, productive and healthy lives. Chief Executive Officer of South Texas Health System Joe Rodriguez spoke about the importance of recognizing the behaviors caused by mental illness when responding to law enforcement calls during Tuesday's Commissioners Court meeting.
May is Mental Health Month, when the community is encouraged to learn about mental illness and to promote awareness and prevention.
"For the last 69 years (Mental Health Month) has been celebrated and it's a good opportunity for us to bring awareness to the community" Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez added that the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office, under the leadership of Sheriff J.E. "Eddie" Guerra, has made great strides in reducing the number of arrests of people who may be mentally ill.
"Today I'm here because it's a special honor for me to recognize Sheriff Guerra and the Hidalgo County Sheriff's department for all the work that they do for our patients in Hidalgo County and for how sensitive they are with our patient needs," said Rodriguez as he presented a plaque to Guerra.
In the United States, nearly 44 million adults and millions of children experience mental health issues each year, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress. In the Hidalgo County Jail, one in three inmates suffers from a mental health issue, Guerra said.
"When I came in to office a little over two years ago, one of my priorities was jail operations. One of the things that caught my attention was the number of inmates with mental disorders," Guerra said. "So we teamed up with our District Attorney, judicial staff, and our stakeholders and mental health providers to better recognize those who are in need of treatment, rather than jailing them. I appreciate all the hard work that South Texas Behavioral Health has done to help us in recognizing and conquering the problem."
Progress has been made in expanding mental health coverage and elevating the conversation about mental health.
"We have seen a tremendous change in the Sheriff's office, they are very caring officers and very committed to helping our patients. So for this, I wanted to give an award to Sheriff Guerra," Rodriguez said.