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Mental Health

vision
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We are healthy.

We have adequate nutrition and achieve and
maintain optimal physical and behavioral health.

16% of adults in Travis County report poor mental health

Indicator: Percent of adults in Travis County who report poor mental health

Goal: Reduce the percentage of people reporting poor mental health

Target: 15% by 2020

Key Trends: About 16% of adults in Travis County reported experiencing 5 or more days of poor mental health, including stress, depression, and problems with emotions, in the last 30 days. Although small sample sizes for local estimates preclude definitive conclusions, the percent of local residents experiencing poor mental health appears to have decreased for the first time since 2011. This indicator status is “unchanged” because the rate is almost equal to the rate four years ago.

Due to the small sample sizes, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data from 2011 through 2014 for a comparison across sub-populations. Based on this analysis, People with disabilities reported the highest rate of poor mental health (36%). 26% of people who earn less than $25,000 per year reported poor mental health and 23% of Black Travis County residents reported poor mental health.

what the data tell us

Sixteen percent of Travis County residents report poor mental health. Although relatively large margins of error make comparisons over time and across geographic areas somewhat uncertain, the share of Travis County residents reporting poor mental health appears to have decreased, following two years of increases, and is now at about the level it was in 2011. The percent of adults who report poor mental health in Travis County in 2014 is about equal to the rate in the in the five-county metro area and Texas as a whole.

Definition: Adults who report to have had 5 or more days of poor mental health which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, within the last 30 days.

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. The sample sizes for BRFSS data are very small. Changes shown in this graph fall within the margin of error for the data and are not statistically significant.

the story behind the indicator

Approximately 16% of adults in Travis County reported experiencing five or more days of poor mental health over the past 30 days. These include days in which they experienced stress, depression, and problems with emotions. Although small sample sizes make comparisons somewhat uncertain, the share of Travis County residents reporting poor mental health appears to have decreased, following two years of increases, and is now at about the level it was in 2011.

People with a disability in Travis County are more likely than any other sub-population to report 5 or more days of poor mental health. Mental illness is the most common cause of disability, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The Office reports, “The burden of mental illness in the United States is among the highest of all diseases, and mental disorders are among the most common causes of disability. Recent figures suggest that, in 2004, approximately 1 in 4 adults in the United States had a mental health disorder in the past year1—most commonly anxiety or depression—and 1 in 17 had a serious mental illness.”

Significance of the indicator: The United States Department of Health and Human Services states that good mental health is essential to overall health and personal well-being. It also contributes to the ability to lead a healthy, balanced, and productive life. Emotional problems can impair a person's thinking, feelings, and behavior and, over time, can become increasingly serious and disabling.

a closer look

Click on one of the titles below for more information.

» Mental Health in Travis County - Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Data

Poor Mental Health, by race and ethnicity, Travis County, 2011-2014

Travis County residents who are Black were most likely to report poor mental health. Due to small sample sizes, the data was aggregated from 2011 through 2014. 23% of Blacks, 18% of Hispanics and 19% of White residents who were surveyed reported experiencing five or more days of poor mental health within the past month. Poor mental health includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions.

Definition: Adults who report to have had 5 or more days of poor mental health which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, within the last 30 days

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

% of adults who report poor mental health by disability status

People with disabilities are more likely than any other sub-group to report experiencing 5 or more days of poor mental health within the past 30 days. Poor mental health includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions. Aggregated data from 2011 through 2014 estimates that 36% of Travis County residents with a disability experienced poor mental health, compared to 15% of people without a disability.

Definition: Adults who report to have had 5 or more days of poor mental health which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, within the last 30 days, by disability status

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

Poor Mental Health by Income, Travis County, 2011-2014

People with low-incomes generally report higher levels of poor mental health. Aggregated data from 2011 through 2014 estimates that 26% of Travis County residents with incomes below $25,000 experienced five or more days of poor mental health within the month prior to being surveyed. Poor mental health includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions. An estimated 15% of Travis County residents with incomes greater than $75,000 reported experiencing five or more days of poor mental health.

Definition: Adults who report to have had 5 or more days of poor mental health which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, within the last 30 days, by income

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

poor mental health, by age, Travis County, 2011-2014

Younger adults are more likely to experience poor mental health than older adults. Aggregated data from 2011 through 2014 estimates that 22% of Travis County residents aged 18 to 44 experienced five or more days of poor mental health within the month prior to being surveyed. Poor mental health includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions. 17% of residents between the ages of 45 and 64 and 11% of senior adults reported poor mental health.

Definition: Adults who report to have had 5 or more days of poor mental health which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, within the last 30 days, by age

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

» Behavioral Health Issues in Central Texas schools

% of students with disciplinary actions resulting in removal from the classrooms

Negative behavior that results in a removal from the regular classroom may be associated with underlying mental health issues. Across local districts and the state of Texas, disciplinary rates have declined substantially. Disparities remain across area school districts, however. Austin ISD, the largest school district in the area, experienced the greatest decline in disciplinary removals. Lago Vista ISD is the only district that has seen an increase in removals.

Definition: % of students who experienced disciplinary action that resulted in their removal from the regular classroom for at least one day

Data Source: Texas Education Agency

Data Considerations: Students removed from the classroom may experience one or more of the following disciplinary actions: in-school suspension, home-school suspension, expulsion, juvenile justice alternative education programs, or disciplinary alternative education programs.

students reporting that their ability to cope with stress or negative emotions is poor or very poor

While there is no measure of sad, unhappy, or depressed youth in our community, AISD surveys students on their ability to cope with stress and negative emotions. In the 2014-2015 School Year, 20% of middle school and 23% of high school students reported that their ability to cope with stress or negative emotions is poor or very poor.

Definition: % of Austin ISD students reporting that their ability to cope with stress or negative emotions is poor or very poor

Data Source: Austin Independent School District, Student Substance Use and Safety Surveys

Data Considerations: The data reported in this survey is not directly comparable to data reported for other regions. Data are based on a sample of students and may not represent statistically significant changes.

% of students who missed school because they felt too sad or depressed to attend

Poor mental health can have an influence on students’ academic performance. During the 2014-2015 school year, 11% of Austin ISD middle school students and 18% of high school students missed school because they felt too sad or depressed to attend. Research by the E3 Alliance, as part of their Missing School Matters campaign, has shown that increased absences negatively affect dropout and graduation rates.

Definition: % of Austin ISD students who missed school because they felt too sad or depressed to attend

Data Source: Austin Independent School District, Student Substance Use and Safety Surveys

Data Considerations: The data reported in this survey is not directly comparable to data reported for other regions. Data are based on a sample of students and may not represent statistically significant changes.

» Suicide Data

overall suicide rate per 100,000 people

Travis County’s suicide rate has remained relatively constant over time. In 2013, the rate appears to have continued to rise, though the change from 2011 is not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. In 2012, there were 12.5 suicides per 100,000 people in Travis County. At the same time, there were 11.5 suicides per 100,000 people in Texas.

Definition: The age-adjusted deaths from intentional self-harm per 100,000 people

Data Source: Texas Department of State Health Services

Data Considerations: The suicide rate is calculated using age-adjusted weights from 2000 Census population data. Differences appearing on the graph may not be statistically significant at the 95% level and should be interpreted with caution.

» Austin Travis County integral Care clients, 2015, by zip code

This map shows clients of Austin Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC) in Travis County. ATCIC serves populations with bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. This population data also include clients with intellectual or developmental disabilities. ATCIC’s clients are largely concentrated along the I-35 corridor and in Del Valle.

ATCIC Clients map

Definition: Unduplicated number of clients served by ATCIC from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014

Data Source: Map was produced by Community Advancement Network. Data was provided by Austin Travis County Integral Care.

Data Considerations: This data reflects only the number of people served in ZIP codes in the 5-county Austin Metro Area.

some local efforts to improve this indicator

Collaborative Initiatives

  • In Spring of 2016, Austin Travis County Integral Care and local leaders broke ground on the Judge Guy Herman Center for Mental Health Crisis Care, which will provide short-term emergency psychiatric crisis care. This will include stabilization, assessment and treatment in a secure, protected residential environment for individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.

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  • Huston-Tillotson University has partnered with the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas and other local partners to create the Sandra Joy Anderson Health and Wellness Center to increase access to mental health services in East Austin.

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  • Central Health is the lead agency for a six county Regional Healthcare Partnership Plan that describes how the region will transform healthcare delivery as part of a state-wide 1115 Waiver. Austin Travis County Integral Care has operated 8 of these initiatives that include mobile crisis intervention, hospital and jail diversion, chronic disease prevention, expanding prescriber capacity, and telemedicine.

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  • Integral Care offers Mental Health First Aid training to law enforcement, health care providers, school personnel, landlords and others in the community so they can respond appropriately to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

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  • The Seton Psychiatric Emergency Department opened at Central Health’s Brackenridge Campus in April 2014, so that people experiencing a psychiatric emergency can be treated in the most appropriate setting. Waiver projects will also expand telepsychiatry services to enhance access to psychiatric services for low-income patients at community health clinics, and are training peer support specialists to promote health and wellness for adults with serious mental illness.

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  • Partnership between Central Health and Austin Travis County Integral Care has allowed the integration of health and behavioral health services in CommUnity Care Health Clinics, resulting in more people receiving mental health care.  In late 2013, ATCIC and CommUnity Care opened a new integrated healthcare clinic that will serve the Dove Springs area. The new Southeast Health and Wellness Center also includes mental health observation facilities in order to deter use of inpatient facilities.

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  • The Travis County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition works to reduce substance use among children in Travis County.

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  • The Indicator Improvement Initiative and the Child and Youth Mental Health Planning Partnership are local collaborations that help coordinate behavioral health planning needs.

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  • The Austin Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC) Initiative is a network that builds on the strengths and resilience of individuals, families and communities to achieve improved health, wellness, and quality of life for those with or at-risk of alcohol and drug problems through a long-term, community-based recovery approach.

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  • The Psychiatric Services Stakeholder Group, a collaboration of government, healthcare, and other organizations coordinated by Central Health, is working to create a stronger, more viable mental health crisis system including a round the clock crisis hotline, mobile crisis outreach services, 24-hour psychiatric emergency services, observation beds in a safe and structured environment, inpatient crisis services, crisis intervention teams, and crisis respite beds.

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  • The Austin/Travis County Suicide Prevention Coalition is one of many coalitions and statewide agencies in Texas working together to implement the Texas Suicide Prevention Plan. This year the Austin/Travis County coalition has a goal of providing training to community and clinical service providers on the prevention of suicide and related behaviors. An example of such a training being provided is Mental Health First Aid.

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  • In 2007, Travis County became the first county in the nation to have a Mental Health Public Defender’s Office to provide “holistic justice” for people with mental illness who are in the criminal justice system.

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Plans, Data, and Reports

  • Local partners worked together to develop the Travis County Children’s Mental Health Plan, a five year plan to improve the wellness of children and youth in Travis County. Goals of the plan include: promoting wellness and supporting resilience; providing a continuum of services; responding effectively to children, youth, and families in crisis; and improving outcomes and accountability across the system.

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  • Substance abuse is a closely related issue. Local public health, human service, and criminal justice partners worked with Austin Travis County Integral Care, in 2015, to develop a Travis County Plan for Substance Use Disorders.

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  • A Youth Substance Abuse Coalition is working to develop a plan and strategies for preventing and reducing youth substance abuse in Travis County.

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  • Local public health, human services, and criminal justice partners have worked together to develop a Substance Abuse Plan for Travis County. In May 2014, the group released a set of initial recommendations which included a focus on people experiencing homelessness and women with children.

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  • In 2012, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, in partnership with other health care partners, completed a Community Health Assessment (CHA) which found that the need for mental health services was one of the foremost community health concerns raised by residents. The partners have developed a Community Health Improvement Plan with strategies to deal with the issues identified in the assessment. Access to primary health and behavioral health care are one the four priority areas of the plan.

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vulnerable populations