Spindletop Center brings mobile mental health services to Kountze

Spindletop Center clients in Hardin County now have one more venue to access care.

The center opened its RV mobile clinic Tuesday in Kountze. It’s part of an effort by Spindletop to reach more rural communities in Southeast Texas.

The Kountze clinic is one of three that Spindletop obtained through funding from the Moody Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield and other grants.

A second mobile clinic will open in Chambers County within a couple months, according to Spindletop Center Chief Executive Officer Holly Borel.

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The third clinic, which doesn’t have a set location, is used for traveling to public events for awareness and can also be used for disaster response and recovery.

The Kountze clinic, located in front of the Hardin County Courthouse, will be available for Spindletop clients to visit every other Wednesday, starting Aug. 10, so the center can see what kind of demand the area has.

“(People see us) for major depressive disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar, posttraumatic stress disorder — as long as they’re a Spindletop client, no matter what the diagnosis is, if they are in this area or they just want an appointment for whatever reason, they can come to this clinic,” said Spindletop Center Clinical Supervisor of North Region Jennifer Earp-Thornton.

Spindletop, which in serves about 12,000 people annually, currently has a facility in Silsbee. However, some clients can’t afford to travel from Kountze to Silsbee, much less to Beaumont, Port Arthur or Orange, due to high gas prices, Earp-Thornton said.

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“(Clients) had to choose between eating and coming to the doctor,” she said. “Some people are in walking distance from this clinic which makes it way more accessible when they’ll be able to come and get their medicine. And if they get their medicine through us, we bring it out here, so they don’t have to drive to Silsbee to get it either.

Two clients can use the mobile clinic at a time. In the RV, there’s a station for a customer service representative where clients can fill out paperwork, another station for clients to meet with a caseworker, a separate nurse’s station where clients can have their vital signs and assessment taken before they meet with their provider virtually in another separate area of ​​the clinic.

Appointments must be scheduled since the space is limited, Earp-Thornton said. Clients can call the Silsbee location at 409-385-7463 to set up an appointment.

Currently, since the clinic’s soft opening in June, Earp-Thornton said they’ve seen about seven clients a day.

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The clinic isn’t just for Hardin County clients, however. Earp-Thornton said Beaumont clients can choose to visit the Kountze location for services if they wish to.

Borel said the idea for the mobile clinic came when she took her position in 2018.

“A lot of the initial access to services was really centralized in the Beaumont region,” she said. “So, if individuals in Port Arthur or Orange, Kountze, Silsbee wanted to access mental health care, they had to actually physically come to Beaumont to do an intake and those intakes can take all day long. Sometimes it really was a hardship for individuals that needed care.”

Borel said she wanted to decentralize the access and make services available in the various locations they serve: Hardin, Jefferson, Orange and Chambers counties.

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Hardin and Chambers counties, however, are more rural and therefore more challenging because Spindletop doesn’t necessarily have physical locations in those areas.

“We had the opportunity after (Tropical Depression) Imelda, the Moody Foundation, the Episcopal Health Foundation together had some grants going out in response to those disasters,” Borel said. “That, as well as (Tropical Storm) Harvey, (there were) several (grants) that came in a row and we saw that opportunity to be able to purchase the mobile clinics.”

Spindletop Center Regional Director of Hardin and Orange counties Amber Woods said that the staff is figuring out how to operate and manage the mobile clinic as they go with no blueprint to follow.

But, she said with a supportive team, anything can happen.

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“There was no blueprint, but what was there was a pool of people who had specialties came together and helped make it happen,” she said.

There’s still a lot of work to be done to complete Borel’s vision, she said, but it’s rewarding to see some ideas come to fruition.

“When we’ve worked a couple of years on something like this, to be able to see it roll out and get started is so exciting,” she said. “People just are really energized around it, our staff love it. When you work in social services, you don’t do it for money. We will never be able to pay (our employees) what they’re worth, the funding just isn’t right for that. But they work because they’ve got a heart for it, it’s their personal mission to help people.”

For more information or to reach out for help, contact Spindletop Center on their website spindletopcenter.org, or the toll-free number 1-800-317-5809.

If you are in a crisis, reach out to Spindletop’s 24-hour toll-free crisis hotline 1-800-937-8097.

The Hardin County Courthouse is located at 300 W Monroe St in Kountze.

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