East Texas Mental Health Services face possible massive budget cuts

David Cozadd- Director of Operations at the Burke Center in Nacogdoches
David Cozadd- Director of Operations at the Burke Center in Nacogdoches
David Cozadd and Charles Powell
David Cozadd and Charles Powell

By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) – Local health agencies are bracing for possible massive budget cuts.

The Department of State Health Services expects as much as $246 million in cuts the next budget year.

"I went from being very successful to the bottom of the hill," said Burke Center peer provider, Charles Powell.

Six years ago, Powell, a successful engineer at the time, lost everything.

"I was at a point where today was not worth a [fiddly diddly] and I knew tomorrow wasn't going to be the same and I didn't want to go there," said Powell.

He was diagnosed as Bipolar. Alone in his depression, Powell says the Burke Center saved his life.

"If it hadn't been for the Burke Center I would have fell through the cracks."

Now he's back on track, and helping others see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"With the right medication and the right support they can get back and lead a functional life," said Powell.

He worries others won't get the same chance.

"Fewer people will get the help that they need, that they desperately need," said Director of Operations at the Burke Center, David Cozadd.

What could happen to these patients? For some who can't receive proper treatment, they may end up behind bars.

"Many people will go untreated which means their condition can get worse," said Cozadd.

Law enforcement officials say there will always be a need for facilities like the Burke Center.

"We've reduced the number of patients that have impacted the emergency rooms and we've dramatically reduced the number of mental health patients that law enforcement had to transport to private facilities," said Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss.

"We're going to be sure that those services are prioritized," said State Representative for District 12 Jim McReynolds.

It's too early to tell, but thousands of Texans like Charles are hoping the help will still be available.

The 2011 legislature will have the final decision as agencies respond with their budget-trimming proposals.

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