UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center

Public Mental Health System in Harris County

PublicHealthSystemHCPCFountainMental illness is more common than heart and lung disease, yet many hesitate to seeking treatment because they don't know how to find help or they fear the stigma associated with mental disorders. One in five Americans may experience a diagnosable mental illness during their lifetime.

Often, multiple agencies are involved in providing mental health services, causing added challenges for those seeking treatment. This confirms our ongoing efforts to create greater continuity of care, as we each agency strives to provide timely and appropriate care in the least restrictive environment for patients.

The following agencies comprise the public mental health system in Harris County:

  • The Harris Center, formerly Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority (MHMRA), provides outpatient services to more than 30,000 people annually. It operates the NeuroPsychiatric Center (NPC), which provides 24-hour crisis evaluation and treatment.
  • Harris County Psychiatric Center (HCPC), operated and staffed by The University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, provides hospitalization for more than 9,000 patients annually.
  • Ben Taub General Hospital operates emergency, inpatient and outpatient services for persons eligible for Harris County Hospital District (HCHD) services.
  • Rusk State Hospital, operated by the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, provides long-term hospitalization to those in need.
  • Other entities within the public mental health system include the Harris County Probate Courts # 3 and # 4, which hear more than 5,000 cases annually for those requiring court-ordered mental health services.

Members of the public mental health system and the behavioral healthcare community worked together to prepare the following information in the hope that those in need of services could access them more easily with an improved understanding of Harris County's mental health system.

Mental Illness: The Warning Signs 
Here are some signs of possible mental illness. Consider seeking professional help if these symptoms are persistent or become severe:

  • Change in thinking, mood or behavior
  • Confusion, poor concentration, indecision
  • Depression, apathy, sleeping pattern changes
  • Anxiety, fear, withdrawal
  • Inappropriate emotional responses to people or events
  • Feelings of losing control
  • Addiction to chemicals, people or events
  • Thinking or talking about suicide
  • Delusions, hallucinations

What to Do in an Emergency
During psychiatric emergencies, the following options are available:

A person who voluntarily seeks treatment may call or go to either of these facilities, located in the Texas Medical Center:

  • NeuroPsychiatric Center (The Harris Center, or MHMRA)
    1502 Taub Loop, Houston, TX
    713-970-7070, or

  • Ben Taub General Hospital (HCHD)
    1504 Taub Loop, Houston, TX

If the individual is in immediate danger or is endangering others, call 911 or the local police department. When calling the Houston Police Department, request a crisis intervention team, or CIT, so officers trained to recognize and communicate with the mentally ill can be sent to help. The police will assess the situation and may, but are not required to, bring the person to the MHMRA Neuropsychiatric Center for psychiatric intervention. If the law enforcement officer elects to transport the person to NPC, the police will file a request for an Emergency Detention Order so that the person may be kept involuntarily in the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

If there is a medical complication, an individual may go to the Ben Taub General Hospital Emergency Center, 1504 Taub Loop, in the Texas Medical Center. Emergency room physicians will treat medical injuries resulting from a suicide attempt or trauma, and acute medical conditions resulting from a drug and/or alcohol overdose or other co-occurring medical illnesses. For treatment of psychiatric problems, the social worker will make referrals to a mental health facility.

Treatment is also available at the emergency center of any hospital that has a psychiatric unit. Those with insurance should contact their insurance company to determine which hospitals are designated on their care plan.

If the person is a veteran who is eligible for VA healthcare benefits, treatment is available at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 2002 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX.

Follow these guidelines to determine which hospitals accept Medicare, Medicaid or Medicaid-HMO:

  • If the hospital is a full-service medical hospital with a psychiatric unit, Medicaid, Medicaid- HMO or Medicare may be accepted.
  • If the hospital only provides psychiatric services, Medicaid-HMO may be accepted for adults. Medicaid and Medicaid-HMO may be accepted for children.

It is suggested that you contact the hospital of your choice to determine which method(s) of payment they accept. It is recommended that families determine which hospitals cover treatment costs under the insurance plan of their ill relative in order to make the selection of a hospital prior to a crisis.

Voluntary or Elective Treatment: Public Health Mental Services in Harris County

The Harris Center (formerly MHMRA)

After a psychiatric evaluation, The Harris Center determines who has priority for inpatient or outpatient treatment. When there is a huge demand for public psychiatric services, clinic appointments for ongoing services may not be readily available. However, crisis services can be accessed through their NeuroPsychiatric Center.

Adult Services

Persons seeking psychiatric treatment may request an appointment at MHMRA by calling 713-970-7070. Based on symptom descriptions, an appointment may be scheduled with a clinical evaluation specialist to determine eligibility for services. If eligible, an appointment is scheduled with a Harris Center psychiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.

Persons eligible for Harris County Hospital District services may ask their primary physician in the community health clinic to make a referral to the Ben Taub General Hospital for psychiatric outpatient services.

Chemical Dependency Services

The Harris Center does not provide services for people with a single diagnosis of chemical dependency. Contact their Access Center at 713-970-7070 to obtain referrals to the appropriate treatment facility.

You also may use the list of organizations that provide treatment for substance and alcohol dependency by looking under "Alcohol and Drug Services" on our page of Local Resources.

Child & Adolescent Services

Persons seeking psychiatric treatment for children and adolescents may request an appointment at The Harris Center by calling 713-970-7070. Based on symptom descriptions, an appointment may be scheduled with a clinical evaluation specialist to determine eligibility for services. If eligible, an appointment is scheduled with a Harris Center psychiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.