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An Overview of Mental Health in Pharr, Texas
Nestled in the Rio Grande Valley, the city of Pharr is located in southern Hidalgo County. Pharr city limits reach to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge that spans the Texas-Mexico border and is the primary entry port between Mexico and the United States.
The Texas cities of Pharr, McAllen and Edinburg plus the town of Reynosa in Mexico form an active metropolitan area. Pharr is approximately 13 miles from the port of entry into Mexico at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the world’s largest structure connecting two countries. It is a major international shipping route. Large trucks full of produce cross the bridge and pass through Pharr. Some trucks carry more than legal commodities.
Pharr is Vulnerable to Drug Addiction
During one impressive drug-bust, the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection Agency inspected a semi-truck laden with tomatoes. Underneath the produce, they found a 45 million dollar cache of methamphetamines, heroin and cocaine—an infinitesimal amount of the illegal drugs trafficked across the Pharr-Reynosa bridge through Pharr on its way to distribution points across the nation.
Drug addiction has a severe impact on mental illness in the Pharr metro area. Police in Pharr are committed to keeping their schools and city drug-free. C.A.P.E.—Community Awareness and Police Enforcement—is a campaign set up by the Pharr police department to help community members safely report drug activity to police. The police also embrace The Truth About Drugs program that challenges Pharr residents to create a drug-free world.
Law enforcement agencies also sponsor numerous engaging activities and use sophisticated media techniques to motivate Pharr community members to join the war on drugs. Police saturate all age groups from elementary school through high school with numerous anti-drug education programs, fun recreation and informative media to neutralize drug addiction. The goal is to create partnership and trust between police and citizens.
Difficulties in Obtaining Mental Health Treatment in Pharr
Latest census data shows Pharr’s population is at 79,487 with 93.7 percent Hispanic, 5.8 percent White and 0.5 percent are other or identify as racially mixed. The predominant languages are Spanish at 88 percent and English at 11.8 percent. Nearly 24 percent of people in Pharr are not legal residents of the United States.
At 34.0 percent, the overall poverty rate in Pharr is nearly three times higher than the national poverty level and significantly higher than the 20.7 percent total poverty rate for Texas. Poverty is highest among Hispanics and lowest among Native Americans. Hidalgo County’s poverty rate is 33.5 percent, and 45.5 percent of the county’s children live in poverty. Some of the poorest counties in America exist near the border of Texas and Mexico according to the U.S. census.
The citizens of Pharr are vulnerable to issues shared by residents of Texas towns along the Mexico border which make it difficult for them to obtain mental health services, including:
- Prevalence of non-English speaking citizens reduces treatment options
- The fear among non-U.S. residents of the likelihood of deportation
- A higher crime rate than 75 percent of U.S. cities
- Easy access to controlled substances and illegal drugs
- Parents do not recognize symptoms of childhood mental illness
- Schools teach physical health but do not address mental health issues
- It can take ten years from the onset of mental illness to receive a diagnosis
- The stigma of mental illness prevents people from seeking help
- Medical benefits often do not cover mental health treatment
- Extreme poverty prevents treatment
- Families do not understand they can use pro bono help
- There is an acute shortage of mental illness treatment providers
Mental Health Services Are Available
In the Rio Grande Valley, one in every five children and one in five adults deals with severe mental illness. Over 60 percent of these citizens do not receive treatment. These numbers are in line with mental health treatment challenges in the majority of U.S. towns and cities.
To combat the dire lack of mental health care, the University of Texas medical school recently began a psychiatric residency program while their psychology department will offer a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology with a treatment clinic for the community. Other mental health treatment venues provide low-cost or free access.