Texana Center: George Patterson, CEO

by HCE Exchange on August 19, 2010

Behavioral health services for all, regardless of ability to pay, are a tall order when the area being served is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. That’s the challenge faced by George Patterson, M.A., L.P.C., CEO of Texana Center, a non-profit organization headquartered in Rosenberg, Texas. Texana provides services in the areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as autism or mental retardation, as well as behavioral healthcare centers for individuals suffering from a variety of mental illnesses or behavioral disorders.

Texana, which opened in September 1999, employs about 540 people spread among 46 service locations in a six-county service area that covers about 6,000 square miles in the area southwest of Houston. The largest of those counties is Fort Bend County, an urban area with a population of about 500,000 located just outside Houston. According to Patterson, 70% of its services are provided in Fort Bend County. It is this growth that presents one of Patterson’s greatest challenges.

“Our service area has almost doubled in the past 10 years,” he said. “As the population has increased, and therefore, our number of potential customers, the funding is not keeping pace with growth. Texas is 49th in the country in per capita funding for people with behavioral healthcare disorders. The biggest challenge is finding other ways to bring money into the organization.”

The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services and the Texas Department of State Health Services are Texana’s primary contractors. Those performance contracts require Texana to provide services to certain types of people with certain diagnoses in a certain way, to document those services and bill properly. In return, Texana receives reimbursement for its services.

The organization has a budget of about $36 million, increasing to $38 million in the next fiscal year, Patterson said. With additional funding, Texana is able to provide services to patients who cannot afford to pay, he said. The organization provides discounted services for those who cannot afford to pay, based on a sliding scale, but also provides services at full cost to people who can afford to pay or have insurance.

Marketing

Another challenge for Patterson is how to educate the public about Texana’s services. Many members of the general public have visited a medical hospital facility, either for their own medical needs or for the needs of their friends or family. However, most people have not had a need for behavioral health services and therefore, don’t know about the types of programs offered by Texana.

“When we say to folks that we’re Texana Center and we do this, most folks who have never had a need for the types of services we provide don’t have any idea what we do, who we are, or why we need their help to stay alive,” he said.

To gain community awareness, Texana’s director of development and community relations, Tracey Shaw, submits articles to local newspapers and magazines. The organization also provides speakers for community organization meetings, such as the local civic clubs. Last year, the center held its first fundraising gala, which raised about $86,000. In addition, through the formation of a community advisory board, Texana has brought in people from the community and educated them as to the benefits of having an organization that provides developmental disabilities services and  has several behavioral health facilities in their midst. This, in turn, created advocates for Texana who then spread the word among their friends and colleagues.

Special Programming

One area where Texana excels is with its autism program, which serves children between the ages of 3 and 8. This is a one-on-one program, Patterson said, with children arriving at 9 a.m., spending the day with an individual trainer, and then leaving at 3 p.m.

“There are kids who come into that program at a young age who don’t communicate with their families, who have some unusual behaviors, and who don’t get along well with other children,” he said. “After we have had them in the program for a couple of years, many of them are essentially ‘normal’. You are unable to distinguish them between their normally functioning peers.”

Measuring Quality

As with any medical or behavioral healthcare facility, the overall mission is to provide quality. Texana performs its own internal auditing and is subjected to reviews by state and federal agencies as well.  However, as Patterson pointed out, measuring the quality of an organization providing developmental disabilities and  behavioral healthcare services requires a unique approach.

“With the type of services we provide, success is often seen in incremental terms,” he said. “Adults with mental retardation will never outgrow their disability. But, they can improve functionally, they can improve socially, and they can improve from an employment standpoint. But the difference in their behavior and their functionality today and a year from now may only be obvious to that person and those closest to them.”

One measure of the quality of Texana’s services can be seen in its membership in the Mental Health Corporations of America, a national alliance of about 140 organizations that provide behavioral health services, all top-tier centers. Membership is by invitation only. Texana participates in the organization’s benchmarking, looking at how other centers market themselves and recruit and retain employees.

“It’s easy to become isolated way down here in Texas and not know what goes on in the rest of the country,” Patterson said. “Being members of this organization gives us an opportunity to compare ourselves to them, to learn from them, and improve the quality of our services.”

Recruitment and Retention

With Texana’s facilities situated so close to Houston, recruitment and retention of staff can be a challenge, Patterson said. Many Fort Bend County residents commute into the city every day for work.

“Recruitment and retention becomes an issue because of the big gorilla next door,” he said.

Another issue, due to the specialized nature of Texana’s services, is that psychiatrists, nurses and therapists are in great demand. With physicians and psychiatrists in particular, there’s always the opportunity for more competitive salaries.

“We’ve kept our benefits and salaries competitive with the market in our area, but that creates a challenge because as the market goes up we have to move up with it,” he said.

Capital Expenditures

Installing and maintaining a modern, effective IT system creates another drain on Texana’s limited funding. However, being located on the Gulf Coast of Texas, there are certain precautions that are mandatory.

“We were hit pretty hard by Hurricane Ike last year and in preparation for this year’s hurricane season we built a hurricane-proof shelter for our IT equipment on the campus, to prevent us from having to relocate our IT servers,” Patterson said.

In addition, with a staff spread out over 6,000 square miles, communication is vital to the organization’s success. Things like teleconferencing help close the distance. The organization also created an internal Web application that all staff members can access at any time to post comments or ask questions of the executive management team.

Using whatever means possible to provide services for behavioral health needs throughout the community, for those who can and cannot afford them, is critical to the health and wellbeing of its citizens, Patterson said.

“There just aren’t many private providers who do what we do,” he said.

-by Kathy Knaub-Hardy

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

James Eaton May 3, 2011 at 9:17 am

Everyone I’ve talked to at Texana including the director have told me that the only funding you receive is from the State of Texas. After reading your website it states that you also receive personal donations.
Why is it that needed help is so hard to get? You have a 2 month to a year waiting period and no one has any idea when they can provide services. I find this very disturbing and wonder who is really in control of this organization and where do all the extra donations go.
I have been signed up for 2 months and still waiting. Without a job and insurance and suffering from Major Depression/Anxiety all that Texana has been able to do is send me to an ER to stay all night and send out a counselor that did nothing to assist me. I has gotten to the point it has angered me increasing my already severe condition.
Who in the State of Texas Government is in charge of this organization as I would like to find out what the problem is and what I can do other than file for indigent care as Texana has told me to do.
On your website you explain how much you can help, but where is the help? It doesn’t exist.

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