Big Budget News, School Behavioral Health and Bills

In this post, learn about the Department of State Health Services’ big budget recommendation for mental health, information about school behavioral health initiatives, and an updated list of behavioral health legislation.

Biggest Possible Mental Health Increase…EVER?

Yesterday, DSHS Commissioner David Lakey unveiled a comprehensive mental health services plan to the Senate Finance Article II Workgroup. According to my friend and colleague Danette Castle of the Texas Council of Community Centers, the $115.5 million plan includes the following components:

    • Public Awareness Campaign:  $4 million
      To address stigma and increase public awareness of mental health, mental illness & how to access help.
    • Prevention & Early Identification:  $2 million
      To increase availability of school-based training for teachers and other school staff (through 20 Educational Service Centers)
    • Crisis Services:  $30 million
      Includes 15 grants (would require 25% local match) for crisis stabilization and other crisis services to divert hospitalization.
    • Mental Health Treatment:  $52.5 million
      To address increased demand as a result of public awareness campaign and increased crisis services.  $20 million of this amount for mental health adults & children services, $32.5 million to expand YES Waiver services.
    • Collaborative Projects:  $10 million
      Provide grants to leverage public and private resources to address mental illness, substance use disorders and contributing factors.  5 grants at $2 million each – Haven for Hope in San Antonio used as example.
    • Funds for Underserved:  $17 million
      To address people receiving fewer services than they need in lieu of creating waiting list.

I should note that these funds are ABOVE and BEYOND what DSHS already has outlined in its $100 million plus mental health and substance abuse Exceptional Items requests (more on these below). 

Needless to say, this plan is HUGE for advocates!  I’ve been around for less than 40 years, but I think it’s safe to say that the passage of this plan would represent the single largest increase for mental health EVER. It’s going to take a full court press to pass this, but I know advocates are up to the challenge!

And don’t fret, my substance abuse friends–the Senate Article II Workgroup already has declared the substance abuse exceptional item a priority! 🙂

Looks like It’s shaping up to be a pretty good legislative session for behavioral health!

House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee

Although it’s tough to beat that first bit of news, the House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee also met last Wednesday to take testimony on funding for the Department of Health Services. I was there to deliver testimony, along with fellow Houston consumers and advocates from St. Joseph’s House. Thanks so much for making the trek, gang!

Mental health and substance use disorders were a significant focus of the hearing. Commissioner Lakey laid out Exceptional Item 6 ($57.2 million–eliminating the statewide mental health service waiting list), Exceptional Item 7 ($33.6 million–eliminating the statewide substance abuse waiting list and increasing provider reimbursement), and Exceptional Item 8 ($23.2 million–increasing housing and support options for people with mental health and substance use disorders). He noted that substance use disorders are among the largest cost drivers in the criminal justice and child welfare systems and also discussed the successful outcomes of the Oxford House model. When pressed by Subcommittee Chairman John Zerwas about whether there was a need for a significant increase in funding for mental health services due to the large number of 1115 waiver projects that address mental health, Commissioner Lakey was adamant that the 6,000+ people waiting for mental health services across the state need services now, not later. Amen to that!

A Plan for Improving School Behavioral Health

MHA’s School Behavioral Health Initiative, which convened school district personnel, behavioral health providers, child-serving and education-related agencies, and parents, recently issued its full report containing recommendations to improve the prevention, identification and treatment of behavioral health issues among students. The report includes 37 recommendations aimed at the Texas Legislature, state agencies, Commissioners Court, school districts and community agencies.  MHA already has been working at the state legislative level to promote legislation that furthers the implementation of these recommendations.  Among them are SB 460 by Deuell, which would require mental health training in educator preparation programs.  I will keep you abreast of additional legislation and budget riders that are filed!

Federal School Behavioral Health Legislation

On a related note, U.S. Senator Al Franken and U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano have filed S. 195 and H.R. 628, the Mental Health in Schools Act. The Mental Health in Schools Act would provide grants to partnerships between school districts and community organizations to implement programs that promote behavioral health, reduce the likelihood of students developing mental health and substance use disorders, and provide early identification of mental health and substance use disorders.  It also calls for the appropriate training of school personnel, as well as parents and other family members.

Please urge Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, as well as your U.S. Representative, to support this legislation. You can do so easily by clicking here!

Behavioral Health Legislation

While almost 2,200 bills have been filed, MHA is now tracking over 100 mental health and substance abuse related bills! Gotta be honest–I’m really hoping we don’t reach 200! Mental health and substance abuse bills of interest include:

HB 1191 by Burkett, which requires the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to make information about public and private housing options for people with mental illness available through the Texas Information and Referral Network website;

HB 1266 by Guillen, which establishes the 18-member Adult and Juvenile Administrative Segregation Task Force to review and make recommendations regarding administrative segregation and seclusion policies in Texas juvenile and adult correctional facilities;

HB 1396 by Susan King, which requires the Department of Family and Protective Services to annually report information regarding the number of children who are born addicted to alcohol or controlled substances; and (just for fun)

SB 612 by Lucio, which requires that candidates for elected office submit to a drug screen. 🙂

For a more complete list of filed behavioral health legislation and to see MHA Houston’s position on these bills, click here.

As always, stay tuned for more up-to-date mental health and substance abuse legislative news!


3 thoughts on “Big Budget News, School Behavioral Health and Bills

    • I ALSO LOVE THIS: SB 612 by Lucio, which requires that candidates for elected office submit to a drug screen.
      An excellent move as my local Rep. Joe Deshotel and I discussed late last year when some elected officials wanted to hold hostage food stamps, Medicaid and TANF for the elderly, poor and disabled. Fair Is Fair when receiving taxpayers money.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s