September 2, 2020 | Fox34
By Bradey King
The Lubbock Area United Way is focused on creating positive change in three areas this year; education, child safety and the newest addition to the list, mental health.
The nonprofits' data-rich 2020 Community Status Report showed Community Impact Director, Devin McCain, areas that her staff can improve.
"I think our first step is going to be awareness," McCain said. "Letting people know what the issues are and what the current capacity of our community is, because there are some gaps that we need to fill."
One of those gaps is a lack of treatment centers in Lubbock.
"If we do have a youth that is in need, if they attempt suicide or have another issue, there's no place for them to go for inpatient care," McCain said.
Right now, more inpatient options are needed however, McCain said that is not the answer to the root of the issue.
"Ideally, if we can put together better intervention programs and schools and parent education, the need for that might go away as well," she said. "We're going to see a lot more community based options versus just trying to shuttle people to a bed."
According to United Way's report, 17 percent of youth ages 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder and 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness.
"There's been a very high increase in suicide rates over the past several years and it's actually lowering our overall life expectancy," McCain explained.
Lubbock County has only 21 psychiatrists, which is half the national average. McCain said Family Counseling Services has helped fill the gap, especially during the pandemic.
"They have been pretty steady," she said. "They are on track with their same numbers as last year and they are seeing a lot more counseling for substance abuse, marriage counseling, domestic violence, anxiety and overall mental health."
The pandemic has exposed the issue even more.
"If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's how fragile mental health is and how big of a need it is across the board from children to elderly and everybody in between," McCain said.
United Way's top priority is to provide access to all people in need of mental health services.