October 25, 2022

Texas expert discusses mental health struggles for patients in Lone Star State as well as Indiana 

Steve Strakowski, M.D.

Regenstrief Institute hosted a mental health expert whose has spent the majority of his career in Texas and related the landscape of the Lone Star State with Hoosiers. 

The guest speaker, Steve Strakowski, M.D., presented “Redesigning Mental Health Care in Texas and Translating to Indiana.” In that presentation, Dr. Strakowski talked about early intervention and that some of the most common debilitating conditions are related to mental health. 

Dr. Strakowski was the founding chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Dell Medical School, University of Texas at Austin, where he is still active in a part-time capacity. He joined the IU School of Medicine in April where he now serves as vice chair of research. He is also executive director of the Mary O’Daniel Stone and Bill Stone Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Evansville. 

In his presentation in mid-September, Dr. Strakowski described some of his work in Austin to improve the mental health care landscape. He also engaged the audience to discuss how this type of effort might translate here to Indiana. Both Texas and Indiana struggle with similar mental healthcare delivery problems. 

“Early intervention works,” he said. “The longer a young person and their family go without treatment after mental health condition onset, the worse the prognosis.” 

Dr. Strakowski added that two million people with serious mental illness are incarcerated annually in the U.S., and 75 percent of those have co-occurring substance use disorder. He said that his vision is to stop jailing those in need of mental health care.  

“Mental health care has endured three centuries of marginalization in the United States,” said Dr. Strakowski. “Stigmatization, perceived expense, lack of understanding and systemic racism and sexism have all been factors. Legislative attempts to fix the problem are often ineffective and have no follow through.” 

The world’s 10 most disabling conditions include several mental health disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dr. Strakowski said that 75 percent of serious mental health illnesses onset by age 24, and that there is often a 10-year delay between symptom onset and beginning treatment.  

Dr. Strakowski’s recommendations for updating and improving Texas’ mental health care landscape include the completion of the new Austin State Hospital, increased functional bed capacity and the expansion of peer engagement. 

Dr. Strakowski’s research has focused on the use of neuroimaging and longitudinal outcome studies to understand the brain processes that underlie bipolar disorder, a lifelong condition – tofor which there currently is no cure. He also is a national leader addressing health disparities in the U.S., specifically in the widely recognized problem of misdiagnosis of African Americans with schizophrenia. In his research efforts, Dr. Strakowski has published more than 300 manuscripts, letters, books and book chapters. He has received numerous awards for his work. 

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