HARLINGEN — The scarcity of mental health treatment options in the Rio Grande Valley has been a source of anguish for patients and their families, but Tropical Texas Behavioral Health is attempting to bridge some of that gap with a major expansion here.
The striking looking outpatient clinic at 103 North Loop 499 in Hralingen, one of four such clinics in the Valley, will undergo a $2.1 million expansion with the renovation of a former assisted living facility next door.
“We’re ready to get that construction under way, hopefully in the next month or so,” Terry Crocker, CEO of the company, said yesterday. “We purchased the building next door to our existing building and we will be adding staff and actually additional office space and parking … Staff are very excited about that as well.”
The new Harlingen space is merely the latest development in the recent history of fast-growing Tropical Texas Behavioral Health. The company has added a new clinic in Weslaco, which Crocker said will celebrate its grand opening next month.
“Our growth continues across all of our system,” Crocker said. “Like I said, the Weslaco building just opened, and we’re about to do an expansion in Edinburg and in Brownsville as well.”
Crocker has been with Tropical Texas Behavioral Health, headquartered in Edinburg, for 15 years, and if anything, demand for mental health treatment services continues to increase.
“When I started, that first year we served 8,000 unduplicated, this year 40,000,” Crocker said. “It’s been a huge amount of growth. Again, a lot of employee growth as well. When I started, it was 200 staff. This year we’ll probably top 1,300.”
Unlike the $13 million Palms Behavioral Health in Harlingen, which opened in 2016 with a 94-bed facility, Tropical Texas Behavioral Health offers strictly outpatient services.
The privately held company reported revenues of about $85 million in its 2017 annual report.
Tropical Texas Behavioral Health clinics offer patients treatment for intellectual and development disabilities for children and adults, substance abuse disorder and mental health adult services. The clinics also provide veterans and peer drop-in centers, depending on the site.
These services continue to be in very high demand.
“We still have an issue Valley-wide in regards to mental health infrastructure,” Crocker said. “For more years than we haven’t, since I’ve been here, we’ve had a waiting list. Thankfully, we don’t have one right now, and haven’t had one in 10 months or so at least.”
Crocker said some of the difficulties in mental health treatment which arise in the Valley are less about hospitals and more about a lack of a robust mental health services infrastructure.
“We get almost a continuing flow of people coming to us, and so we struggle to keep up with that demand,” he said. “One of the problems we have is we don’t have a back-door to service, so when we get someone stabilized in care we need private providers and other people to be able to pick up that care they may provide.
“For example, if we have a child who has been stable for two or three years, we need to move him out and create a spot for someone else to come in,” Crocker added. “But if the community can’t support that, the mother and father,
the last thing they want is for that child to be moved out of our care, so it’s an understandable concern.”
Tropical Texas Behavioral Health was formed in 1967, and one of its most enduring relationships in the region is with Valley Baptist Medical Center, he said.
“One of our oldest and strongest partners,” Crocker said.
But they are forging a new mental health treatment partnership with what some may find a surprising entity — the Harlingen Police Department.
“We have a very close relationship with the Harlingen Police Department as well,” Crocker said. “They’re doing some innovative things there in regards to treatment of people who have mental health issues.
“Our commitment, our roots there, run deep,” he said of Harlingen, “and we’re confident that we’ll continue to get support from Harlingen in what we try to do in the way of services.”