North Texas

Growing Denton County Stretches Need for Mental Health Services

Public health officials in Denton County say a fast-growing population could play a role in increased demand for mental health services.

Providers say those services are already stretched thin. According to a recent public health assessment, more than 78,000 Denton County residents currently lack sufficient mental health care. This month, Denton County public health officials identified mental health as one of the county's top concerns for its residents.

"The number one thing is realizing something is going on," said Deana Dameron, of Denton.

Dameron was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1986.

"Some days I wanted to be in bed with the covers up over my head," she said. "I didn't want to talk to anybody, answer the phone, and I was in sales."

Dameron was prescribed medication and has since lived a relatively normal life. But others don't get that chance.

"Stigma is a huge part of this — why people aren't getting the help they need," said Pam Gutierrez, executive director of Denton County MHMR. The group is part of a larger collective addressing mental health needs, part of a three-year initiative launched by county health officials.

"People are coming in every day. More and more people," Gutierrez said. "And we struggle to provide services to those individuals."

As Denton County's population continues to grow, Gutierrez worries that more people might fall through the cracks.

"If we're not able to help them and can't provide the service, who will help them?" Gutierrez said.

Without the help she's received, Dameron wonders where she'd be today.

"Honestly, probably wouldn't exist," she said.

Instead, she's thriving. With proper treatment, Dameron wishes so many others could do the same.

"It's crucial," she said. "It's crucial."

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