SAN ANTONIO - The struggle to properly treat all San Antonians suffering from mental illness is a crisis not many people know about.
Ashlea Denton was surprised when she tried to get her son help at the San Antonio State Hospital but was turned away. The hospital closed its adolescent unit in March. They hope to re-open in August.
A spokesperson with the Texas Health & Human Services Commission says that they had to close the unit because they had to move staff to other areas where there were critical shortages.
Ashlea's son, Gary, is 17 years old and suffers from bipolar disorder.
"Their website says they will take anyone regardless of condition or their ability to pay," Denton noted.
Ashlea doesn't have insurance and was fortunate to be able to find a private hospital that would accept Gary.
"We're new to all this. It's very scary and it's a lifelong condition. He might not get better," Denton explained.
Finding help isn't easy.
The San Antonio State Hospital is trying to hire medical professionals in order to re-open the unit for children.
Statewide, there's a shortage on experts and beds for patients.
"We live on the edge. We have a very fragile ecosystem for mental healthcare, so when one facility does close, it tends to back up other facilities," said Doug Beach, the local board president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Beach says that an estimated 300,000 people in Bexar County will experience a mental health disorder in a given year.
"There just aren't enough places to go for care. It's one reason you see over 800 people on a given night in the county jail who have a diagnosed mental illness. There's just no other place for them to end up," Beach said.
Ashlea says that she'll be fighting for her son and those like him who need help.
"These are our most vulnerable population and they deserve equal treatment," Denton said.
On August 11 and 12, the mental health community will be offering a free workshop for those seeking help.
You can find out more and register by clicking here.
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