Lufkin's Burke Center struggles because Texas is ranked last in mental health funding

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Friday's school shooting in Connecticut has many politicians nationwide talking about mental health.

Despite the fact that there are folks in Texas who need help, many face challenges to get it, especially in light of the fact that the Texas Department of State Health Services recently stated that the Lone Star State ranks last in funding for mental health care.Diane Vanlier, the service director for the Burke Center's mental health emergency center said mental has been in the mental health field for 35 years, and she said Texas has been ranked in the bottom five for as long as she can remember.

She said although the Burke Center has been providing care since 1974, it is poorly funded.

"We have difficulty providing clients who might need therapy, getting them therapy services with the Burke Center," Vanlier said. "That's a very poorly funded type of service in the state of Texas, and we have a number of clients in addition to perhaps a primary diagnosis of depression, or bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia."

Vanlier said even state hospitals are suffering from under funding.

"The state hospitals are underfunded to where there are times where there will not be one state hospital bed in the entire state of Texas," Vanlier said.

The Burke Center veteran said that she feels heath services are cheaper than the costs of jails and emergency rooms.

"Mental health services are right now at such a bare bone that if they cut mental health services further, they're not going to be saving any money because these clients will end up in our jails, they'll end up in our emergency rooms," Vanlier said.

That line of thought is something State Representative, Trent Ashby, R- Nacogdoches, agrees with.

"At the end of the day, the tax payers pick up the tab many times on those services, and so I do think it makes sense to try and put some emphasis into helping those people in the front end that do suffer from mental illness," Ashby said.

Ashby said there needs to be a real focus on mental health in not only East Texas, but state wide.

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