SAN ANTONIO – Mental health officials in Bexar County hope a new concept to approaching mental illness will save lives.
"Individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, they are likely to die 29 years earlier than people who don't have a mental illness, specifically because of the difficulty they have accessing primary care," said Dr. Clarissa Aguilar, of The Center for Health Care Services Northwest Integrated Care Clinic.
Aguilar said officials hope to extend lives with an integrated method of embedding primary care and medical services at a mental health clinic on Fredericksburg Road.
"Patients can come in. They can see their provider that provides them with psychiatric medication and all medications they typically get for managing emotional disorders. But they can also be seen by a medical doctor or provider," Aguilar said.
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Some of the psychiatric illnesses treated include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depressive disorder.
The Center for Health Care Services was awarded mental health funding under Senate Bill 292 and House Bill 13, which will eventually provide more staff, training and programs focused on treatment rather than patients being arrested or ending up in the emergency room.
"It's very important that people recognize there is treatment out there, there is hope. And the way you can get better is trying to seek services and finding a place that will address both physical and mental health needs," Aguilar said.