History of the Gulf Coast Center

History of the Gulf Coast Center

Early Beginnings

Prior to the 1960s, state institutions were the only source of support and treatment available to citizens who suffered from serious mental disabilities. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy proposed a broad new program which included community mental health centers. In October of that same year, he signed the Community Mental Health Center Act into law.

In 1965, Texas passed the Texas Mental Health and Mental Retardation (MHMR) Act. This act proposed an innovative new concept for community MHMR services and their financial support: the formation of a partnership of local citizens, local units of government, the State of Texas and the federal government. At the time, more than 400 people from Galveston and Brazoria Counties were being sent to state institutions each year, away from their families and friends. But, the Center’s goal has been to serve individuals with disabilities within their own community. And, so the process of lessening the number of individuals sent to state facilities began.

In 1966, the development of a community mental health-mental retardation center for Galveston County began with the appointment of a nine-member Board of Trustees by the Galveston County Commissioners Court. Over the next three years, the Board labored to develop a county plan that was finally completed and approved in late 1969. On December 1, the doors were opened to a mental retardation services program in La Marque. By October 1971, services had been expanded to include mental health.


Two men and two women review documents on a desk in a conference room.
Once services in Galveston County had been established, the Brazoria County Commissioners Court approved the concept of joining Galveston County in a regional MHMR center in 1973. The Galveston Board was dissolved and the members were merged into one Board of Trustees with five members from Galveston County and four from Brazoria County.

Services Offered

By 1974, the Center offered day activities, art rehabilitation, psychotherapy, infant development, residential, technical and outpatient services. Over the next few years, facilities opened in Freeport and Alvin. The Galveston County Mental Health Deputies, one of the first of two such acclaimed units in the country, was formed in 1976 to provide crisis services in Galveston County. By this time, the number of individuals being sent to state facilities was already declining.

Three and One Half Decades of Expansion

Growth continued from the late 1970s to today. Highlights include the addition of day programs, a center for individuals with mental retardation in Brazoria County, and a grant to assist the Center in providing transportation to people served. In 1985, the Galveston County Commissioners approved funds for psychiatric services to be provided in the County Jail, and the Brazoria County Mental Health Deputy program was initiated. By the mid 1980s, only 138 adults were admitted to state facilities, a sharp decline from the 400 plus that were admitted before the Center began its services.

Children’s Services began in January 1986 and in 1987 the Center began to operate a substance abuse recovery program under the auspices of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA). A federal grant was received to expand transportation, and a thrift store began to generate work and volunteer opportunities. In the early 1990s, the Center began two programs that were the first of their kind in the state of Texas. The Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program was launched, followed shortly thereafter by the implementation of Supported Employment. Both became state-designated Best Practices. In September 1997, the doors opened to the Center’s Community Regional Psychiatric Hospital; a joint venture of the Center and University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB).

Today’s Center

Today’s Center is one of 39 community centers in the State. It continues to offer substance abuse recovery services under the auspices of the Department of State Health Services.  Among the Center’s many services and programs are day activity programs, coordination of services and employment assistance for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental illness. There are several programs for individuals diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health issues (dual diagnosis), a transitional and permanent housing program for homeless individuals with mental illness, and HIV outreach services in Galveston and Brazoria Counties. The Center continues to provide treatment for individuals within their community while minimizing the number admitted to state facilities. The Center celebrated 40 years of service in 2010 and continues to support and serve the citizens of Galveston and Brazoria Counties.  Although the programs and services offered by the Center have changed through the years, much progress has been made toward enabling and empowering individuals and their families to live quality lives.