Judge Lina Hidalgo announces temporary leave, checks into inpatient care for clinical depression

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Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Rodney Ellis takes lead in place of Harris Co. Judge on leave
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced her temporary leave from office after being checked into inpatient care for clinical depression.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced on Monday that she checked herself into inpatient care at an out-of-state facility for clinical depression, prompting a temporary leave from office.

Hidalgo said she hopes to return to work by early September and added that it's important for her "personally and professionally to confront this issue swiftly."

The county judge's doctors advised her to focus on her health for the next several weeks, according to a news release.

While she is seeking care, Hidalgo will still have communication with key county staff, but Commissioner Rodney Ellis will preside over official proceedings, including Commissioners Court.

"Additionally, the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HCOHSEM) has been notified and is fully engaged and prepared to respond to any potential incident or disaster during this time," Hidalgo said in part of a news release.

"As difficult as this may be, Judge Lina Hidalgo is not alone in facing this challenge. A 2023 report showed that over 30% of adults meet the criteria for having depression and/or anxiety. Thankfully, she is in the care of doctors who recognize that this is treatable and is committed to getting better. All of us know someone who suffers from depression. The good news is that now more than ever, resources are available for those who need help. My hope is that this experience can serve as a teachable moment and encourage others who need support to seek it. We cannot let stigma stand in the way of treatment. Our thoughts and prayers are with Judge Hidalgo," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement.

Hidalgo wrote the following letter for the people of Harris County:

"I am writing to share with you that I am one of the over 21 million American adults that is suffering from clinical depression. For some time, I have been coping with this challenge, and it was undiagnosed until last month. Based on my doctor's recommendation, I checked myself into an out of state facility to receive inpatient treatment in late July. It is important for me personally and professionally to confront this issue swiftly, so I will be taking temporary leave from the office while I am receiving treatment. My medical care team and I are hopeful that I will be able to resume my normal schedule by early September. I remain passionate about Harris County and its people and look forward to returning at full strength.

From the beginning of my tenure as County Judge, I have stressed the importance of mental health services. Depression and other mental health illnesses are part of the human condition, and mental health illnesses should be treated just like any other health condition. I feel so strongly that we should be open and forthright about mental health issues, which historically have been tarred with stigma that have prevented people from seeking the treatment they need.
My experience has been difficult, but I am taking it as an opportunity to be open about my own struggle, my own challenges, and to encourage others, who need help, to seek treatment. All of us know someone - a friend, a coworker, or a family member - who suffers from depression. I encourage every person that is struggling with mental health challenges to look for support in your community, your loved ones, and your doctor. If you need help finding support in Harris County, the Department of Public Health maintains a list of mental health resources that residents can find at: publichealth.harriscountytx.gov/Resources/Mental-Health-Resources, or you can call 9-8-8. Remember to prioritize your own health and that you are not alone.

I will remain available in the event of an emergency, and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management remains fully engaged and prepared to respond to any potential incident or disaster during this time, and I will continue to remain available to staff. Since Commissioners Court rules indicate that the senior (longest standing) member of the court shall preside in my absence, Commissioner Rodney Ellis has graciously agreed to preside over Commissioners Court in my absence. Additionally, my chief of staff will continue to manage the day-to-day operations in my office.

I am grateful for your understanding, as well as the support of my colleagues, friends, and family. I hope to share more about my experience upon my return."

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