From Our Team
The Paso del Norte Center at the Meadows Institute: A Commitment to Mental Health Care in Our Region
Posted on July 20, 2021 by Tracy J. Yellen
Mental illness has traditionally been treated – when treated at all – in piecemeal fashion, and too often not until after a crisis event has occurred. Waiting to provide care until after a crisis means the first attempt at treatment occurs after the illness has already reached an advanced stage. Just like with cancer and heart disease, early detection and intervention are key to the best possible outcomes, so a primary challenge is changing the delivery of health care to reflect this reality.
For most of the past decade, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation has been working – in partnership since 2014 with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute – to analyze and improve mental health and substance use care throughout the region. In 2012, the Health Foundation catalyzed the creation of the El Paso Behavioral Health Consortium (Consortium) to strengthen the behavioral health systems. In the years since, the Consortium has streamlined communication across stakeholders and supported new programs including trauma-informed care, mental health first aid, the Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN) in primary care, and the Texas Child Health Access Through Telehealth (TCHATT) program in schools.
Even with these gains, there is still much more to be done. The most recent assessment conducted by the Meadows Institute indicated that of the 140,000 adults and 60,000 children and youth in El Paso County who suffer from mental illness each year, gaps remain, and the primary challenges involve integration and shifting care further upstream.
Improving mental health care in the region continues to be a priority for both the Health Foundation and the Meadows Institute, and together we have established the Paso del Norte Center at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute as the latest step in this commitment. This new regional center will provide policy and program guidance throughout the region, better inform mental health policy development across the state with ongoing input our region and broaden the region’s capacity to improve its mental health and substance use care.
The Meadows Institute, a state and national leader in mental health policy, knows the unique needs of the region well. In addition to conducting community assessments in 2014, 2017, and an update completed earlier this year, the Institute has worked on a wide array of projects with Texas Tech University Health Science Center-El Paso, Emergence Health Network, El Paso Child Guidance Center, El Paso Center for Children, the El Paso Police Department, El Paso County, and other local organizations and stakeholders.
The Paso del Norte Center will give our region more tools and support to help local providers and care systems build up their capacity to serve more people. Its initial focus will be on furthering the Health Foundation’s mental health and emotional well-being initiatives, including Think.Change, the Consortium, and other regional collaborative efforts.
The El Paso region is distinctive in many ways, and this brings both assets and challenges. One challenge for nearly six in ten of El Paso County’s 160,000 children and youth is poverty, exacerbating underlying mental health and substance use needs. Deep-seated needs like this underscores the importance of expanding regional capacity to tailor policy and mental health care initiatives to our specific needs, leveraging the strengths and capacities of all of our regional partners. The Paso del Norte Center will also give the Meadows Institute’s broader team of mental health policy and implementation experts a local presence to engage continuously with public officials, partner institutions, health systems, provides, and stakeholders more broadly as together we continue to build upon the progress the region has already made.
We are excited and proud to launch this Center, and we are hopeful that its current and expanding partnership across the region and state can guide us toward a healthier, stronger future for our neighbors, our friends, and our families, thereby helping all of us live happier and more productive lives.
Tracy J. Yellen is CEO of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and Paso del Norte Community Foundation.
Andy Keller is president and CEO of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.
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