Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner is asking state officials for assistance in building a new mental health hospital.
“The biggest challenge for us is our mental health problems that we’re having here in Amarillo and the whole panhandle,” Judge Tanner said on Inside Texas Politics. “We have a huge mental health problem. I do the hearings for 25 of the 26 counties in the panhandle.”
Tanner said she has spoken to State Senator Kevin Sparks and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick about this crisis and told them that her region needs a mental health hospital.
“The patients that I order to the state hospital go all the way down to Wichita Falls and most of the time they’re full,” she continued. “So, they’re just left here and then they just finally let them go. And they come back a month later, and we do everything all over again.”
Wichita Falls is more than 200 miles away from Amarillo. As such, according to Tanner, sheriff’s deputies and constables must spend an entire day away from their city to transport patients to that hospital.
Tanner said that having spoken with Sparks and Patrick, there is a “really, really good chance” that a mental hospital will be built in her area.
“I went and talked to the senate finance committee back in June and talked to them about it and they were like, ‘Let’s look into this,'” she said. “[The] lieutenant governor is on my side, so we’ll see what happens.”
Judge Tanner said that she believes the mental health problems are being driven by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People are depressed,” she said, adding that she has handled many probate cases regarding “a young person that has lost both parents to COVID.”
When asked later in the interview about county officials’ ongoing demands for local control, Tanner responded that she believes the upcoming Texas legislative session should “let the local officials make the choices for our own areas.”
“We need to be able to make those choices and what’s best for us and for our vicinity,” she said, but added that she doubts it will actually happen. “I’ve been with the county 33 years and I’ve been county judge for eight and I’ve not seen it happen yet.”