This week marks the 10th anniversary of Burke’s Mental Health Emergency Center (MHEC), a ground-breaking program that has significantly improved crisis mental health services in east Texas while serving as an award-winning model for other regions throughout the state.
Burke’s MHEC was the nation’s first rural freestanding comprehensive psychiatric emergency service and the first to depend entirely on telemedicine for psychiatric care. Before the MHEC was established, people in mental health crisis often waited for extended periods in hospital emergency rooms—or sometimes in jails—as beds were sought in state or private psychiatric hospitals elsewhere in Texas, far from home and family. With the MHEC, access to care is available locally with follow up services scheduled as needed. Since it opened, MHEC has served over 11,000 people.
MHEC came about through the hard work of many stakeholders. The T.L.L. Temple Foundation donated the land and funded construction of the MHEC facility. The Stephen F. Austin School of Social Work has been an incubator of ideas. They initiated the work that became the Rural East Texas Health Network, an organization made up of county officials, judges, law enforcement, health care providers, and hospital administrators who work together in each county to coordinate and improve mental health crisis services. Without them, MHEC would not be possible.
On behalf of the Burke Board of Trustees, Burke’s CEO, Susan Rushing thanks those who have contributed in the planning, support, and operation of the MHEC, “especially the Burke MHEC staff and telemedicine psychiatrists who bring their expertise and compassion to this vital work. Your work is changing lives.”