Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Takes Leave of Absence For Mental Health Treatment

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo wrote to Harris County residents that she checked into treatment in July.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo wrote to Harris County residents that she checked into treatment in July. Screenshot
Updated 4:47 pm

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced on Monday that she would be taking a temporary leave of absence from work as county judge as she is currently receiving inpatient treatment for clinical depression.

According to a letter written by Hidalgo, she has been dealing with depression, which went undiagnosed until last month. She opted to check herself into an out-of-state treatment facility in late July per her physician's recommendation and expects to return to work in early September.

“My experience has been difficult, but I am taking it as an opportunity to be more open about my own struggle, my own challenges, and to encourage others, who need help, to seek treatment, Hidalgo wrote. “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.

Hidalgo said Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis would take over her duties at Commissioners Court meetings, and her chief of staff would continue managing her office operations while she is away.

Ellis spoke out in support of Hidalgo’s decision and urged those wanting to criticize Hidalgo or her choice to avoid doing so while she is in treatment.

Hidalgo often faces backlash from conservative activists and statewide Republican lawmakers.

Many of her democratic colleagues, including Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, took to social media to praise the county judge’s choice to receive treatment.

However, Michael Berry, conservative radio talk show host, and former Houston City Council member, posted on X (formerly Twitter) urging Hidalgo to resign from the office she is “not qualified to hold” and said the “puppeteers who installed her into a position that frightened her & led her to this” should be ashamed of themselves.

The Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management was notified of her leave of absence, and Hidalgo said she would be available in an emergency.

The county judge took a brief break at the beginning of this year to visit her sick grandfather in Colombia, then went on vacation in Thailand, but returned after a tornado struck Deer Park and Pasadena.

In early October, she took some time off for health reasons as she was recovering from severe food poisoning and dehydration. Later within the same month, she announced her doctors had also found an ovarian cyst that could require surgery later in the year.

She encouraged Harris County residents to seek help if needed. She advised them to visit the Department of Public Health’s website for a list of mental health resources or call 9-8-8, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

This is a developing story and will be updated if needed. 
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.