Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announces return date after leave of absence
After a surprise revelation that she was taking a leave of absence in early August, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced on Thursday, September 14 when she will return to her official duties.
In a letter to her constituents, Hidalgo revealed that she will resume her normal schedule on Monday, October 2 after her temporary leave from office. This comes after Hidalgo announced on August 7 that she had checked herself into inpatient care at an out-of-state facility for treatment for clinical depression.
Commissioner Rodney Ellis immediately took over her official proceedings, including Commissioners Court, following her at the start of her leave.
Hidalgo's team said she will be discharged from the care facility this Saturday, September 16, to transition from residential care to outpatient care, CultureMap news partner ABC13 reports.
Here is Hidalgo's full letter, in which she says she is "feeling a lot better":
Dear People of Harris County:
Thank you to my colleagues, family, and the Harris County community for the outpouring of support that I received after I announced I was seeking inpatient mental health treatment for depression. I have been deeply touched by all the messages that I have received, not only from Harris County residents but from across the country. So many people wrote to me to share their own struggles with mental health and their support for my decision to be public about my journey. I am encouraged that so many in our community agree that treatment for mental illness should be normalized just as seeking treatment any illness is accepted and expected.
After my time in a fantastic inpatient facility, I am feeling a lot better. I am looking forward to being discharged this Saturday, September 16, 2023, starting outpatient care, and re-acclimatizing to life outside a mental health facility. My initial treatment plan had me returning to my regular schedule in September, but my discharge date was moved back, which moves back the re-acclimatization period. The way my doctors explained re-acclimatization to me is that you would not go from heart surgery straight to running a marathon, in the same way that they do not want me to go straight back to my usual schedule.
I am feeling great and looking forward to returning on Monday, October 2, 2023. Thanks to the incredible medical team that has cared for me over the past several weeks, I feel so much stronger than I have ever been.
I continue to maintain lines of communication with my staff and the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management remains fully prepared to respond to any potential incident, as well as request my presence if necessary.
I am grateful for your continued support. I look forward to sharing more about my experience, and most of all, I am eager to return to the community and the job that I love.
Harris County Judge
Surprising many of her supporters — and even detractors — Hidalgo was candid in her August 7 letter explaining her need for treatment for clinical depression — something she had been coping with "for some time":
"Based on my doctor’s recommendation, I checked myself into an out-of-state facility to receive inpatient treatment in late July," Hidalgo writes. "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."
As ABC13 also notes, Hidalgo returns in time for next week's Harris County's pivotal budget vote. The vote will have significant impact on Harris County homeowners' property taxes. The $2.4 billion proposed budget also addresses law enforcement patrols, public health, raises for some employees, and additional funding for county courts.
A rising star in democratic political circles — and a lightning rod since she was elected — Hidalgo landed on Time Magazine’s 2021 Time100 Next list and was a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, as CultureMap reported.
Most recently, she was the subject of a glowing Vogue profile in April and was just named to President Joe Biden's reelection committee.