KVUE investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti takes an in-depth look at the state of mental health care in Texas during a 30-minute special this weekend.
“The Cost of Troubled Minds,” set to air at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, is the result of seven months of digging, according to Pierrotti, who joined the station about two years ago.
What he and a pair of KVUE photojournalists found is likely to surprise many viewers, Pierrotti believes.
“The issues impacting the mentally ill in Texas are mind-blowing,” he said, “and there’s certainly no easy fix.”
Pierrotti said that the poor are particularly at risk because state budget cuts in past years have severely impacted services that are available to them. While some funding has been restored, advocates say more money is needed.
“They may have helped a little, but there’s still a long way to go,” he said. “All the Legislature did essentially was add back about the same amount that was taken away 10 years ago.”
KVUE also found there’s a shortage of psychiatrists in many parts of the state that’s making the situation even worse.
One woman featured in the special has checked herself into emergency rooms hundreds of times because she had no other access to mental health services she required. Those frequent visits potentially cost taxpayers as much as $1 million, Pierrotti said.
“Austin is doing a little better than some other parts of the state because we’re a fairly progressive city, but this is still something we’re dealing with here, too,” he said. “With the population gains we’ve been seeing, it’s not going to go away any time soon, either.”