The Department of Psychiatry’s addiction clinic is the only of its kind in El Paso County
The Department of Psychiatry at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso has opened a new addiction clinic to address mental health and substance use disorders in the Paso del Norte region. The clinic, which opened its doors in summer 2021, is the only of its kind in the county, with a provider who is an addiction psychiatrist certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).
“We opened the clinic because there’s a need for treating people with mental illness and comorbid addictions in our region,” said Fabrizzio Delgado, M.D., psychiatrist at TTP El Paso and provider at the addiction clinic. “There’s a lot of stigma about addiction, but it’s a real medical condition. The problem is people either don’t know they have a substance use disorder, and if they do, they don’t know where to seek help. They don’t even know help is available.”
Over the past several years, adults have experienced an increase in mental illness and mental health issues, further exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide and throughout the Borderland.
In 2020, 21% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Only 46% of those with mental illness received treatment that same year. An unfortunate co-occurrence of mental health disorders is substance use, and in 2020, 17 million Americans experienced a substance use disorder in addition to mental illness.
“We opened at the right time. We know the pandemic has isolated people, and that isolation made substance use disorders worse, and the problem is increasing,” Dr. Delgado said. “Last year, 100,000 people in the U.S. died from opioid use. That’s the highest number in history. It’s time for us to start helping people with these conditions.”
According to Dr. Delgado, a common misconception is that addiction treatment is solely for opioid users; however, alcohol use has gone up all over the country, including in the Paso del Norte region, which already had rates higher than state averages.
According to Healthy Paso Del Norte, in 2018, 22% of adults in El Paso County were reported as binge drinkers, compared to the Texas average of 17% and national average of 16%.
Dr. Delgado, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, is currently one of only two physicians in El Paso who are board certified by the ABPN in addiction psychiatry. Others in Texas are as far as Amarillo, and as far as Albuquerque in New Mexico.
“Like other chronic illness, including hypertension or diabetes, addictions must be managed in a medical model,” he said. “This entails medication and medication-assisted treatment that can only be provided by physicians – ideally physicians who specialize in addiction medicine – along with counseling and groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.”
The clinic currently serves patients 18 and older – from throughout West Texas, El Paso County and Doña Ana County – experiencing issues with substance abuse, gambling or sexual addiction. Psychiatrists there can see up to 12 patients per week, with room for expansion.
“Our location is key to bridging gaps in access to care for Borderland residents seeking help,” Dr. Delgado said. “Being in the heart of El Paso, the clinic has the opportunity to reach not only our own residents, but those from New Mexico and other areas in the region where we can begin making a difference.”
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. Faculty at the university’s Foster School of Medicine are also practicing physicians at the school’s medical practice, Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, the region’s largest multispecialty medical group practice.
TTP El Paso is comprised of over 250 specialists who provide world-class patient care for the entire family at several locations across El Paso. The practice offers services from a variety of subspecialty providers, helping local families avoid the expense of traveling outside the city for specialized health care services.