Overview • Child & Adolescent Services • Adult Services • Fees • Access/Admission • Privacy Notice • Safety And Quality Go Hand in Hand
Guide to Public Mental Health Services in Harris County
illness is more common than heart and lung disease, yet many
refuse to seek treatment because of the stigma associated
with mental disorders or they are uninformed about how or
where to go for help. One in five people, or 350,000 adults
and 130,000 children residing in Harris County, will suffer
from a diagnosable mental illness during their lifetime.
agencies are involved in providing mental health services
so at times receiving care can become a difficult task, creating
a greater concern for continuity of care. Providing timely
and appropriate care is a priority of each agency as they
look for the least restrictive treatment environment for their
following agencies comprise the public mental health system
in Harris County: The Mental Health and Mental Retardation
Authority (MHMRA) provides outpatient services to more than
30,000 people annually and operates the NeuroPsychiatric Center
providing 24-hour crisis evaluation and treatment. The University
of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center (UTHCPC), operated
and staffed by The University of Texas-Houston Health Science
Center, provides hospitalization to more than 5,000 patients
annually. Ben Taub General Hospital operates emergency, inpatient,
and outpatient services for persons eligible for Harris County
Hospital District (HCHD) services. The Rusk State Hospital,
operated by the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental
Retardation, provides long-term hospitalization to those in
need. Other entities within the public mental health system
are the Harris County Probate Courts # 3 and # 4. These courts
hear more than 5,000 cases annually for those requiring court-ordered
mental health services.
of the public mental health system and the community came
together to prepare the following information in the hope
that those in need of services could access them more easily
with an improved understanding of the Harris County mental
Illness - The Warning Signs
of possible mental illness, if persistent or severe, for which
professional help should be considered are:
in thinking, mood or behavior
poor concentration, indecision
apathy, sleeping pattern changes
emotion responses to people or events
of losing control
to chemicals, people or events
or talking about suicide
To Do In An Emergency
psychiatric emergencies, the following options are available:
If the person voluntarily seeks treatment,
he or she may call or go to the NeuroPsychiatric Center (MHMRA),
located at 1502 Taub Loop, telephone 713-970-7070, or Ben
Taub General Hospital (HCHD), located at 1504 Taub Loop, telephone
713-793-2000. Both of these facilities are in the Texas Medical
If the individual is in immediate danger
or is endangering others, call 911 or the local police department.
When calling the Houston Police Department, request a crisis
intervention team, or CIT, so officers trained to recognize
and communicate with the mentally ill can be sent to help.
The police will assess the situation and may, but are not
required to, bring the person to the MHMRA Neuropsychiatric
Center for psychiatric intervention. If the law enforcement
officer elects to transport the person to NPC, the police
will file a request for an Emergency Detention Order so that
the person may be kept involuntarily in the hospital for a
If there is a medical complication, an individual
may go to the Ben Taub General
Hospital Emergency Center, 1504 Taub Loop, in the Texas Medical
Center. Emergency room physicians will
treat medical injuries resulting from a
suicide attempt or trauma, and acute medical conditions resulting
from a drug and/or alcohol overdose or other co-occurring
medical illnesses. For treatment of psychiatric problems,
the social worker will make referrals
to a mental health facility.
Treatment is also available at the emergency
center of any hospital that has a
psychiatric unit. Those with insurance should contact their
insurance company to determine which hospitals are designated
on their care plan.
If the person is a veteran who is eligible
for VA healthcare benefits, treatment is available at the
Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 2002 Holcombe Boulevard.
Follow these guidelines to determine which
hospitals accept Medicare, Medicaid or Medicaid-HMO:
the hospital is a full-service medical hospital with a psychiatric
unit, Medicaid, Medicaid- HMO or Medicare may be accepted.
the hospital only provides psychiatric services, Medicaid-HMO
may be accepted for adults. Medicaid and Medicaid-HMO may
be accepted for children.
suggested that you contact the hospital of your choice to
determine which method(s) of payment they accept. It is recommended
that families determine which hospitals cover treatment costs
under the insurance plan of their ill relative in order to
make the selection of a hospital prior to a crisis.
or Elective Treatment
a psychiatric evaluation, MHMRA determines who has priority
for inpatient or outpatient treatment. When there is a huge
demand for public psychiatric services, clinic appointments
for ongoing services may not be readily available. However,
crisis services can be accessed through the NeuroPsychiatric
seeking psychiatric treatment may request an appointment
at MHMRA by calling 713-970-7070. Based on symptom descriptions,
an appointment may be scheduled with a clinical evaluation
specialist to determine eligibility for services. If eligible,
an appointment is scheduled with an MHMRA psychiatrist for
further evaluation and treatment.
eligible for Harris County Hospital District services may
ask their primary physician in the community health clinic
to make a referral to the Ben Taub General Hospital for
psychiatric outpatient services.
in a psychiatric crisis may go to the NeuroPsychiatric Center
at 1502 Taub Loop, 713-970-7070; or Ben Taub General Hospital
at 1504 Taub Loop, 713-793-2000.
does not provide services for people with a single diagnosis
of chemical dependency. Contact MHMRA's Access Center at
713-970-7070 to obtain referrals to the appropriate treatment
facility; or, check the telephone numbers at the end of
this pamphlet for referral to agencies providing treatment
for substance and alcohol dependency.
and Adolescent Services
seeking psychiatric treatment for children and adolescents
may request an appointment at MHMRA by calling 713-970-7070.
Based on symptom descriptions, an appointment may be scheduled
with a clinical evaluation specialist to determine eligibility
for services. If eligible, an appointment is scheduled with
an MHMRA psychiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.
and Involuntary Mental Health Services
to obtain a court order for mental health services may be
the Mental Health Division of the Harris County Clerk's Office.
The Mental Health Division is located at UTHCPC, 2800 South
MacGregor Way, and open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through
Friday, except holidays. The telephone number is 713-741-6024.
over the age of 18 who has personal knowledge of someone they
believe poses a danger to him or herself or to others may
request a mental health warrant.
Commitment Process for Adults
To begin the involuntary commitment process, the applicant
(person who is filing for commitment) requests and completes
an application for a warrant from the Mental Health Division
of Harris County Clerk's Office at UTHCPC.
MHMRA staff at UTHCPC screen applicants once a bed is
A warrant may then be issued by the Harris County Clerk's
Office. The whereabouts of the person must be known so
that a Harris County Deputy Constable may take the person
The UTHCPC physician must provide a medical certificate
within 24 hours of the patient's admission in order for
the court to determine if it is necessary to issue an
order of protective custody (OPC). Once the OPC is issued,
an attorney is appointed to the case. Probate Courts #3
and 4 are located at UTHCPC, 2800 South MacGregor Way,
and may be contacted by calling 713-741-6020.
Within 72 hours of the issuance of the OPC, the probable
cause hearing is held in which the judge determines whether
to hold the person at UTHCPC until the mental health hearing.
The applicant does not have to be present at this hearing.
mental health hearing must occur within two weeks of detention.
In Harris County, this final hearing is usually within
eight days. During the mental health hearing, the court
determines the appropriate treatment based on testimony
provided by the applicant (usually a family member or
friend), medical experts and the patient. The result of
the hearing may be:
A court order for outpatient treatment
Commitment Process for Children and Adolescents
MHMRA at 713-970-7070 for an appointment for a psychiatric
assessment at one of their clinics. An MHMRA psychiatrist
will provide an evaluation of the child or adolescent and
make the necessary referral for outpatient or inpatient
treatment. In a crisis, go to the NeuroPsychiatric Center,
1502 Taub Loop.
To Access Treatment at the University of Texas Harris County
four direct ways to access public psychiatric hospitalization
at the University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center
(UTHCPC). They are:
court-ordered, involuntary mental health services in which
an application is filed with the Mental Health Division
the Harris County Clerk’s Office (see court-ordered
from another hospital or treatment center. Transferring
staff must obtain administrative and medical clearances
prior to patient transport and admission to UTHCPC
admit or walk-in patients may come on their own or through thier private physicians referral.
may voluntarily walk into UTHCPC for screening by an MD
to determine criteria for admission. This is not the preferred
route to gain access. If the hospital is at maximum capacity,
these patients will be referred to the MHMRA Neuropsychiatric
FOR ADMISSION INFORMATION, CALL 713-741-3883
federal government and the State of Texas have established
statutes and regulations governing disclosure of information
pertaining to a person's mental health care. Additionally,
the codes of ethics for all mental health providers (psychiatrists,
social workers, substance abuse counselors, psychologists,
nurses, etc.) address the protection of the person's right
concerns the clinician's obligation not to reveal information
to others without the patient's specific written consent.
Treatment facilities have a circle of confidentiality within
which the sharing of information does not require the patient's
permission. Included within this circle are all members of
the treatment team, supervisors and consultants within the
agency or treatment facility.
are several exceptions to the confidentiality rules. They
bona fide emergencies, information may be released for
the sake of emergency interventions, but efforts should
be made to obtain the patient's permission. The need to
obtain a history, information on current behavior/treatment
and medications/significant incidents, takes precedence
during emergency situations.
abuse must be reported to Children's Protective Services.
Certain communicable diseases require mandatory reporting
to government agencies. Additionally, threats made against
the U.S. president require reporting to the U.S. Secret
Service and gunshot wounds must be reported to the local
police department. A reasonable belief of abuse of the
elderly or the disabled adult must be reported to Adult
To Inform Third Parties
the 1976 court decision on Tarasoff vs. the Regents of
the University of California, it is generally thought
advisable for mental health professionals to warn or to
take reasonable steps to protect endangered third parties
under the following conditions:
When a patient makes a threat to harm a specific person
When there is clear and present danger
However, a Texas Supreme Court decision (Thapar vs. Zezulka)
determined that a mental health professional has no legal
duty to warn a third party of a patient's threat to harm.
The mental health professional however may contact the
appropriate officials in the event that the professional
has determined there is a probability of imminent injury
by the patient to himself or herself or to others, or
mental or emotional injury to the patient.
Section 611.004 of the Texas Health and Safety code does
allow disclosure of confidential information "to medical
or law enforcement personnel, if the professional determines
that there is a probability of imminent physical injury
by the patient to the patient or others or there is the
probability of immediate mental or emotional injury to
the patient." The code allows disclosure of confidential
information to a governmental agency if the disclosure
is required or authorized by law.
Mental health professionals generally understand the frustration
confidentiality rules may cause to families, friends and
significant others. At times, distinctions may be made
between internal processes that are private and behaviors
that can be considered public. At all times, the care
of the patient and the protection of the patient's rights
must be sustained.