New app aims to improve mental health access in Hidalgo County

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A licensed professional counselor says time is of the essence when someone is going through a mental health episode.

"I never have a day where I don't have someone presenting me with a mental health warrant, either by a peace officer or by a judge,” Vanessa Saenz said. “Every day we receive patients on mental health warrants."

 Saenz is the vice president of DHR Health Behavioral Hospital.

"In the case of an emergency mental health warrant, it is for an emergency situation, so you're talking suicidal ideation, homicidal ideation, severe psychosis where individuals’ lives are in danger,” Saenz said.

Now, more justices of the peace in Hidalgo County are using an app to streamline how quickly those warrants are approved.

JP Andre Maldonado started using the app two weeks ago. It only applies to patients who have been admitted to DHR Health.

The emergency mental health warrant allows law enforcement to step in and escort the patient to a mental health facility for a psychiatric evaluation and proper care, even if they deny help.

“We would have to go into the hospital and go sign them and that would take up to thirty minutes or an hour, and between that time period, the hospital is having to deal with the issues of the mental health patient,” Maldonado said.

Right now, Maldonado is one of three justices of the peace in Hidalgo County that uses the app. Saenz hopes more justices will join them. 


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