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PILLAR awarded $4 million to target mental health

The federal government, with the help of U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, awarded PILLAR a $4 million grant to target individuals with mental illness or substance abuse disorders.
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 9:49 PM CST
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - Laredo is not only medically underserved when it comes to treating COVID-19, but also when it comes to treating mental health needs.

But with a $4 million grant, one local clinic can start bridging the gap.

Now 10 years old, PILLAR is a non-profit mental health organization and outpatient substance abuse treatment facility in Laredo.

The federal government, with the help of U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, awarded PILLAR a $4 million grant to target individuals with mental illness or substance abuse disorders.

One patient shared her testimony on how PILLAR saved her life.

”Quarantine came, and volleyball was taken away from me. My friends were taken away from me. Any social life was taken away from me. I was struggling a lot to the point where I then attempted to commit suicide in November.”

Ari is a student athlete at Texas A&M International University. She’s used to having a lot of pressure on her to succeed.

But she started going to PILLAR once a week for therapy, calling it a life changing experience

”I can make mistakes. I can be a person. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the services here.”

With these funds, PILLAR will also offer primary care and 24-hour crisis intervention services.

Officers are typically trained in de-escalation tactics when they come across a suspect who suffers from a mental illness, but as we’ve seen in the past year or two, things don’t always go as planned.

Part of the funds going to PILLAR will help bridge the gap between law enforcement and mental health services.

”Instead of making it a confrontation, being able to provide those services and refer people to the right center and give them that treatment is much better, and it’s what the goal is: to help people,” said Chief Claudio Trevino.

By partnering with the Laredo Police Department and Webb County Sheriff’s Department, PILLAR hopes to redirect a person’s encounter with police from a jail or hospital visit instead to a crisis intervention team.

”For a lot of these families, it is a family tradition,” said Judge Hugo Martinez. “If we save one individual, god willing we’ll save his family.”

PILLAR expects a decrease in emergency room visits by 25%, incarceration by 30% and substance abuse by 30%.

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