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Collaborative Partnership to Address Mental Health Gap Affecting Our Homeless Community Members

Texas Tech Health El Paso to provide psychiatric services with the help of Bank of America and the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.


As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Texas Tech Health El Paso, Bank of America, and the Opportunity Center for the Homeless announced a groundbreaking initiative on Thursday, May 16, aimed at addressing the pressing mental health needs of our community's most vulnerable members.


Project Opportunity, generously funded by a $25,000 grant from Bank of America, is a powerful collaborative partnership that will allow Texas Tech Health El Paso physician residents from the Department of Psychiatry to provide services to community members at the Opportunity Center using remote video technology starting in June.


Due to unforeseen circumstances, anyone can become homeless, and it's often made worse by systemic issues, like not having adequate access to health care, especially mental health care. The cycle of mental health disparities often intersects with homelessness, frequently funneling individuals into the jail system and exacerbating challenges with prescription adherence.


This highlights the deep-seated issues involved, underscoring the need for a compassionate community collaboration to seek solutions, such as this collaborative effort.


By working together, Project Opportunity will empower members of our homeless population by providing them with vital support and resources needed to rebuild their lives and stay on their feet.


“To partner with Texas Tech Health El Paso and Bank of America is our next miracle,” said Ray Tullius, Opportunity Center for the Homeless founder and executive director. “The common denominator through his partnership is ‘hope.’”


Mental health services provide a comprehensive approach to addressing the complex needs of individuals experiencing homelessness, offering support not only for managing mental health conditions but also for reconstructing their future, fostering community integration, and creating pathways to sustainable housing and employment.


“Access to mental health services is crucial to a thriving community. The Department of Psychiatry at Texas Tech Health El Paso is addressing this need directly and working to provide exceptional mental health care to El Pasoans, contributing to our shared vision at Bank of America for a stronger, more resilient city for years to come,” said Kristi Marcum, Bank of America El Paso president.


In 2022, over 582,000 individuals in the U.S. experienced homelessness for at least one night, with more than 122,000 of them identified as living with severe mental illness. This is why Bank of America, Texas Tech Health El Paso and the Opportunity Center are working to address the intersecting challenges of homelessness and mental health.


“This is an opportunity for Texas Tech Health El Paso to give back to our community while introducing our medical students and psychiatry residents to the challenges our homeless community face in regard to mental illness,” said Peter Thompson, M.D., M.S., chair of Texas Tech Health El Paso’s Department of Psychiatry.


Dr. Thompson added that patients with severe mental disorders die 10 to 20 years earlier on average than the general population, and the suicide rate is about nine times higher in the homeless population than general U.S. population.


Philip Lee, a resident of the Opportunity Center’s Veterans Transitional Learning Center, details his mental health struggles and homelessness in his 2020 book “Face the Fence.” Lee was one of the speakers at the event announcing Project Opportunity.



"Seeking help is not a weakness; it's an act of courage and strength. In reality, getting help requires more courage than just repressing the issues,” Lee said. “The longer someone goes without proper treatment, the harder it is to start recovery. For example, perhaps if I had started my recovery a long time ago, maybe my situation would not have been so difficult.”


Lee added that through self-love and humility, he and others find the power to overcome.


“Like navigating a business, armed with information, we make better decisions for our well-being,” Lee said. “And when someone admits their struggle, let's listen and guide them to seek professional help. Together, let's break the stigma and pave a path toward healing and strength."


John Martin, Deputy Director of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, expressed his gratitude to Texas Tech Health El Paso and Bank of America for being a part of the project. The three organizations hope Project Opportunity serves as a partnership model for the rest of our community.


“We’re incredibly grateful that Texas Tech Health El Paso, through their vision, is truly transforming health care for our community not only through innovation but through collaboration,” Martin said. “We welcome their partnership, for it’s truly a shared undertaking in working with the most vulnerable within our community – the homeless.”


Bank of America has a longstanding tradition of collaborating with Texas Tech Health El Paso to enhance community health care access. In 2022, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation provided a $45,000 grant for a mental health patient navigator in the Department of Psychiatry. And in 2020, Bank of America announced a generous $50,000 gift to the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic to fully equip a one-of-a-kind suite to allow Hunt School of Dental Medicine students to care for patients with special needs.


 

ABOUT BANK OF AMERICA

Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses, and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services.


 

ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY CENTER FOR THE HOMELESS

The Opportunity Center for the Homeless exists to support and help all homeless individuals to move beyond their condition if they are capable; or protect them if they cannot improve their condition in society because of emotional or psychological disorders.


 

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