Report: North Texas Lags Behind U.S. and State in Availability of Psychiatric Care

An analysis of 16 North Texas counties found that seven of them don’t have any psychiatric care beds, and that most counties in the area lag behind in the availability of behavioral health care.

The North Texas Community Health Collaborative report offers an expansive and sobering view of mental health issues across the region, where the 16 counties accounted for more than 1.1 million visits for mental health or substance abuse issues in 2016, equating to about 3,200 a day.

Underscoring the issue in North Texas, just Dallas County, Grayson County, and Rockwall County came in above the state’s average for behavioral care providers by population, which is about 95 providers per 100,000 people. The U.S. average is about 90 providers per 100 people. Dallas County has more than 120 providers per 100,000 people. Six counties—Hunt, Ellis, Navarro, Parker, Wise, and Somervell—have 60 providers or less per 100,000 people.

When it comes to bed capacity, Dallas County has 686 total psych care beds, while Tarrant County has 536 beds. About 91 percent of the 2,067 beds in the 16-region are in just five counties.

Dr. Sushma Sharma, director of research for the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council Foundation, said the results reinforce that communities needs to come together to address behavioral health issues. “This requires much more collaboration and coordinated efforts than any other condition,” she said.

The North Texas Community Health Collaborative represents 10 area hospital systems, behavioral health authorities and community-based organizations who want to improve behavioral health. It’s coordinated by the DFWHC Foundation.

Sharma said the study is a first-of-its-kind, detailed look at the area’s needs, which can help provide a road map for collaboration across county borders.

The 130 pages, downloadable here, are filled with county-specific stats culled from the DFWHC’s patient data warehouse, which has information from 86 hospitals in the region. The foundation also pulled from the Department of State Health Services, the Merritt Hawkins Physician Workforce Report, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The lower insurance reimbursements that have traditionally been tied to mental health patients have contributed to the physician shortage, said Steve Love, president and CEO of DFWHC.

In addition to lagging provider capacity, the report’s key findings include several demographics figures. More females than males visited hospitals for behavioral health issues in all 16 counties, and the most visits came from the 40-60 and 60+ age groups.

The report shows that more behavioral health patients in Dallas County are uninsured (32 percent) than insured (about 30 percent). The county recorded about 217,000 mental health visits in 2016, or about 594 visits per day. It recorded 157,000 visits related to substance abuse, and an additional 53,000 related to both.

The report’s authors suggest collaboration among community partners, greater access to care via integration with primary and specialty care doctors, better education and training for community health workers, and better care coordination.

“We need to remove the stigma of people getting help from mental health and behavioral health,” Love said. “We need to… make people feel that they do have access, and hopefully there’s a way that we can get treatment to them so that they can be productive, as oppose to incarcerating people. I hope that we can really focus on good outcomes.”