Health & Science

Humble Crisis Center Offers Alternative to ER For Psychiatric Patients

Memorial Hermann plans to open four mental health walk-in clinics.

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Manish Pandya, director of behavioral health services at Memorial Hermann, and Sabina Chudleigh, a psychiatric social worker, in the lobby of a crisis center in Humble.

There are plenty of statistics about the shortage of mental health care in Texas: For example, Texas spends less on mental health per person than every other state except Idaho. The number of beds at state mental hospital keeps going down, while the population booms.

And even if you have health insurance, which many Texans don’t, there are often long waiting lists for therapy or just to get medication.

But Sabina Chudleigh, a psychiatric social worker, doesn’t need statistics. She sees the problems walk right through her clinic door.

“We had someone that just couldn’t stop crying,” recalled Chudleigh. “She was just having extreme mood swings, she couldn’t stop crying and the family didn’t know what to do.”

Chudleigh manages a new kind of treatment center in Humble, a walk-in clinic for people in mental crisis. People experiencing a psychiatric crisis in the Houston area often have nowhere to go but the local emergency room. This new alternative could save patients both money and time and get them to mental-care professionals sooner than waiting for hours or even days in a hospital.

In fact, an ER doctor sent the crying woman over to Chudleigh for help.

“The emergency room physician at Northeast ER said, ‘Can you help her? She’s not suicidal, actively, or wanting to hurt anyone,’” Chudleigh said. “And we’re like, ‘Absolutely.’”

Chudleigh’s team was able to calm the woman down and start her on an anti-depressant and a sleeping pill. They also helped her find follow-up care.

Memorial Hermann opened the clinic in April, according to Manish Pandya the system’s Director of Behavioral Health Services.

“It reduces the amount of time people wait in emergency rooms, and reduces the amount of time they stay in the hospital, waiting to get to care,” Pandya said.  

Memorial Hermann plans to open three similar clinics over the next year. It’s using $20 million from a statewide pool of Medicaid money. The money is for innovative medical programs that treat people outside of the hospital, out in the community.

Pandya says the Humble clinic has seen almost 200 patients in three months. Some drove all the way from Katy or Sugar Land. 

“That’s been the surprising part,” Pandya said. “The volume isn’t surprising, but the surprising part is the distance people are prepared to travel. We’ve got three other clinics planned so that more people can have access to this.”

The next one opens in October in Spring Branch. All of the clinics will focus only on people in moments of crisis – they will refer the patients to other agencies for regular therapy or follow-up care.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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