The importance of facilities like the new behavioral health center at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital was hammered home Tuesday night during an open house for the 35-bed unit.
As physicians and hospital administrators, including Mayor Robert Cluck, took in the gleaming floors and crisp, well-lit rooms that bring to mind a spa rather than a clinic, guests noted the sad irony that TV monitors in the common areas flashed images of actor-comedian Robin Williams, a victim of depression and substance abuse who died by suicide just a day earlier.
“We’ve seen what depression can do, even to someone like Robin Williams,” said Ramona Osburn, senior vice president of behavioral health for Texas Health Resources. “Patients come here with both physical and behavioral elements, and we were often treating the physical one but not the behavioral one.”
The unit will begin taking patients Monday ranging from adolescents to the elderly who are battling mental health problems like substance abuse, stress, anxiety and severe depression.
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Williams’ death brings a sense of urgency to the facility’s opening, some said.
“It’s an equal-opportunity illness,” added Quazi Imam, a psychiatrist on the hospital’s staff and the medical director of the new center. “Thirty years ago it was a stigma, but even Robin Williams can have a psychiatric condition. Depression can be treated; suicide is preventable.”
The new center is situated in a 22,000-square-foot area of the main building that fronts Cooper Street. The space was formerly a pediatric unit and then a hospice before being used as business and doctors’ offices.
Its 35 beds can accommodate 12 adolescents and teens in one section and 23 adults in another.
The volume may not seem large, but the center is an important addition to Arlington facilities and fulfills a need not addressed in public care until now, hospital officials said. The center offers a seamless partnership between psychiatric and medical services under one roof.
The Arlington center is the fifth of its kind to be opened by Texas Health Resources. Others include Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Plano and Dallas. Ten other outpatient centers are within the Texas Health Resources network.
It offers inpatient and outpatient services and a level of continuity in care that is not typical, Osburn said.
“We’re one of the few centers in the Metroplex that is tied to a hospital so we can coordinate healthcare with behavioral services at the same time,” she said.
The center is not a long-term residential treatment facility. The average stay will be only for a few days, then patients will be transitioned to comprehensive outpatient care.
“It’s important to integrate back into your community quickly, because that’s your reality,” Osburn said.
By the numbers
More than 258,000 North Texas residents 18 and older experience a serious episode of depression each year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. It affects about 14.8 million adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older each year.
Some suffer Robin Williams’ self-inflicted fate.
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office certified 324 deaths by suicide in 2013, or 12.8 percent of the 2,430 bodies examined.
Suicide remained the third-leading cause of investigated deaths, behind natural and accidental deaths, in Tarrant, Denton, Johnson and Parker counties, the principal counties that make up the Tarrant medical examiner’s district.
Over the past five years, suicide rates have fluctuated. Tarrant’s 222 cases in 2013 were up from 2009’s 163; Denton had 63 in 2013, down one death from 2009. Johnson County had 27 in 2013, up from 16 in 2009. Parker had 12 last year, up from 10 in 2009.
A time for awareness
“We do see an increase in calls when there’s news like this,” said Catherine Carlton, spokeswoman for MHMR of Tarrant County. The agency usually fields 75,000 calls a year regarding mental health emergencies, information, referrals and other services.
“That’s why we hope people know to call us,” Carlton said. “We can get them set up with services and connect them with the services they need.”
Those can include substance abuse counselors, peer specialists and case managers at mental health clinics across the county, group therapy and a community center.
Visit www.mhmrtarrant.org for more information.
Osburn and Imam said the Arlington area had been underserved in facilities like the behavioral health center, but now more effective, full-range treatment plans are possible.
“Our mission is body, mind and spirit; now we can continue our work on the mind,” said Doug Hawthorne, retiring CEO of Texas Health Resources, who also referenced Williams’ death in his remarks to staff. “This is a place of comfort, a place of beauty.”