A Little News Here and There

In this post, an update on the budget, a look at how Harris County squares up health-wise, and the status of a few bills.

On the Budget

Last Wednesday, the Texas Senate passed CSSB 1, the budget bill, on a vote of 29-2. The only “no” votes were newly elected Senator Sylvia Garcia and Senator Wendy Davis, largely due to the fact that the Senate version restored only $1.4 billion of the $5.4 billion cut from public schools last session. On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee substituted the bill with its own version and voted it out unanimously.

There are not significant funding differences for mental health and substance abuse services between the two bills, but one issue of note is that the House version added $2.5 billion for public education–over $1 billion more than did the Senate.

The full House is scheduled to take up CSSB 1 next Thursday, April 4th. A great thing about the House (at least to an advocate like me) is that all 150 members have an equal opportunity to put their imprint on the budget by offering amendments on the Floor. Expect anywhere from 200-300 amendments to be filed by this Thursday’s deadline, including a couple recommended by MHA. ūüôā

State of Health in Harris County

In the recently released 2013 County Health Rankings and Road Map, a joint project of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Harris County ranked 70th among 232 counties. This is down from a rank of 53 last year. Williamson County was ranked first, and Polk County was ranked last. The rankings take a variety of health factors into consideration, including poor health and mental health days, excessive drinking, physical activity, and the rate of uninsured. For a complete look at the rankings, click here.

Bills on the Move

Many pieces of legislation that MHA is tracking are on the move.¬† You can view an update on them all by checking MHA’s bill chart.¬† Bills that recently have been¬†voted out of committee include:

HB 232
Relating to allowing certain minors convicted of certain alcohol offenses to perform community service instead of attending an alcohol awareness program.

HB 591
Relating to the health professions resource center.

HB 1872
Relating to federal firearm reporting for a person who voluntarily identifies as a person with mental illness.

SB 1185
Relating to the creation of a mental health jail diversion pilot program.

In particular, I want to call attention to HB 1872, which would require the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to include in the information it reports to the Federal Background Check System a person who voluntarily identifies himself or herself to DPS or local law enforcement as a person with mental illness who should be precluded from purchasing a gun.

MHA and several other advocacy organizations oppose this legislation because it unfairly and discriminatorily singles out people with mental illness.  While there may indeed be people with mental illness who would voluntarily place themselves on this list, there are likely just as many people without mental illness who would do the same.  In my view, this legislation unnecessarily stigmatizes an entire group of people. Thankfully, the good folks at MHA Texas are working on a floor amendment that would strike the reference to mental illness in the bill.  If it comes up for a vote on the Floor, look for an advocacy alert on that amendment, and please be sure to contact your representative and show them your support!

“A pen rather than a lance has been my weapon of offence and defence; with its point I should prick the civic conscience and bring into a neglected field men and women who should act as champions for those afflicted thousands least able to fight for themselves.”

–Clifford Beers: mental health consumer,Yale graduate, and founder of the National Committee for¬†Mental Hygiene, predecessor of Mental Health America

Write ya next week!

All About the Budget…and a Little More

In this issue, get more detailed information on the mental health and substance abuse services funded by the House and Senate budget bills, information on how sequestration will affect behavioral health, and as always, a bill update.

Senate Budget On Its Way to the Floor

Last Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee voted out its budget bill, CSSB 1, which includes over $200 million more for behavioral health services.¬† Since I’ve previously outlined the approved Senate mental health and substance abuse initiatives, I won’t repeat all of that information. However, there are a few budget riders–“footnotes” that designate funding for certain purposes–worth mentioning:

  • Requirement that DSHS withhold 10% of appropriated funds to each Local Mental Health Authority (LMHA) for ongoing community and crisis mental health services and distribute the funds based upon a performance-based incentive plan
  • Requirement that DSHS develop a 10-year plan for the provision of psychiatric services at state hospitals (with the inclusion of public input)
  • Designation of children’s mental health prevention and early intervention funds for¬† evidence-based curricula that train school personnel and community members about the signs and risks of mental health issues
  • $8 million of appropriated funds designated¬†for the veterans mental health program
  • $8 million of appropriated crisis funds designated for outpatient competency restoration programs

House Makes Amends

As I mentioned in my last post, also on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved over $200 million more for mental health and substance abuse services as well. This was a reversal from earlier Article II Subcommittee decisions that amounted to just $33 million more for behavioral health. The House budget bill, which will be substituted in place of the Senate bill when it makes its way over to the House, funds the following services:

Mental Health

  • $54.2 million to eliminate the ~6,500 person waiting list for mental health services
  • $24.8 million to expand housing support options for people with mental illness
  • $32.5 million to expand the YES waiver
  • $25 million for Haven for Hope-like community parterships
  • $25 million to expand crisis services
  • $20 million to expand community mental health services for children and adults
  • $17 million to increase service package offerings for underserved children and adults
  • $6 million to expand NorthSTAR services
  • $4 million for veterans mental health
  • $2.4 million for 6 long-term treatment beds (up to 90 days) at the Harris County Psychiatric Center

Substance Abuse

  • $6 million to increase substance abuse provider rates by 3.9%
  • $5 million for substance abuse services for individuals referred by DFPS
  • $4.9 million to eliminate the 946-person substance abuse service waiting list
  • $1.1 million to expand the Oxford House model across Texas

Additionally, Representatives Sylvester Turner and Ruth Jones McClendon submitted a rider to the budget that would ensure that increased mental health funding would address inequities among LMHAs. If maintained in the final version of the bill, this would mean that Harris County MHMRA, which has one of the lowest per capita funding rates among the LMHAs, would receive a disproportionate amount of the additional monies. The House Appropriations Committee also adopted the performance-based incentive plan rider adopted by Senate Finance.

Regarding funding for behavioral health services, so far, so good! If you didn’t get a chance to respond to the MHA alert sent out yesterday, how about take a moment to call your favorite members of House Appropriations¬†and¬†Senate Finance to thank them for their good work?

Federal Behavioral Health Funding Cut

While the budget is looking good at the state level, things are shaky at the federal level. As a result of sequestration–the automatic federal budget cuts that are kicking in due to lack of Congressional action on deficit reduction–the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is set to lose $168 million, or¬†about 5%, of its total funding by September 30th of this year. This will include across-the-board cuts to all programs, including the mental health block grant (funded at a level of $460 million) and the substance abuse block grant (funded at a level of $1.8 billion). As a result, funding will be reduced accordingly at the state level.

According to DSHS, funding for substance abuse services will need to be reduced by $6.7 million and funding for mental health services by $1.7 million. DSHS has asked stakeholders to complete a survey to give input on how DSHS should implement these cuts.

Obviously, substance abuse programs will take a bigger hit, so it’s important to try and minimize the impact to the most important programs. For whatever my 2 cents is worth, I probably would recommend that funding for children’s substance abuse prevention, intervention and treatment services remain unharmed. If the adults take cuts, it may be better to target those to prevention and intervention, rather than treatment, since we still have a substance abuse treatment waiting list (at least in the current fiscal year). Again, that’s just what I think.¬† If the substance abuse community has any thoughts, please share!

That being said, please take a moment to complete this survey. It is due this Friday, March 22nd.

Behavioral Health Legislation

As you know, MHA is tracking over 200 mental health- and substance abuse-related bills. You can view them all here. Many of the bills have been progressing quickly through the process.The following legislation has been voted out of committee:

HB 908
Relating to the assessment of an elderly or disabled person’s psychological status for purposes of an emergency order authorizing protective services.

SB 36
Relating to the detention and transportation of a person with a mental illness.

SB 58
Relating to integrating behavioral health and physical health services provided under the Medicaid program using managed care organizations.

SB 152
Relating to the protection and care of persons who are elderly or disabled or who are children.

SB 256
Relating to tracking career information for graduates of Texas medical schools.

SB 401
Relating to a notification requirement if a school counselor is not assigned to a public school campus.

SB 462
Relating to specialty court programs in this state.

SB 944
Relating to criminal history record checks for certain employees of facilities licensed by the Department of State Health Services.

In addition, the Senate already has voted a few bills out of its chamber, which are now awaiting action in the House. These include:

SB 50
Relating to the Children’s Policy Council, including the composition of the council.

SB 109
Relating to a housing plan developed and certain housing information collected and reported by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

SB 126
Relating to the creation of a mental health and substance abuse public reporting system.

SB 426
Relating to a home visiting program for at-risk families.

Again, check out summaries of these bills, MHA’s positions,¬†and more by viewing our bill tracker.

Catcha next week!

State and Local Updates….Part 3?

Well, you know I try not to flood people’s inboxes, so this will be a quick post. Evenly as I was mildly ribbing House Appropriations this morning¬†for¬†a significantly smaller investment in mental health and substance abuse services than the Senate, the full committee approved an increase of over $200 million for these services!¬† Thanks to Lillian Ortiz of Texas One Voice for sharing this article:¬†¬†

House panel boosts mental health spending by $220 million


I’ll include more specific details as they become available, likely in next week’s blog post.¬† But it looks like that Advocacy Alert I’ve talked about to thank members of the Senate Finance Article II Workgroup and other Senate Finance members will need to include the House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee and other committee members.¬† Stay on the look out for that.¬† It’s looking like it’s going to be a great session for behavioral health!

Now, really, until next week!

State and Local Updates: Part 2

Well, I don’t have any more local updates (at least that I can share…yet!), but I’ve got some more budget news and the much-awaited bill tracker!

Behavioral Health and the Budget

I’ve already laid out the Senate mental health and substance abuse budget recommendations for the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), but below you can find out about the House recommendations, as well as a few other behavioral health-related budget items of interest. These include:

House Appropriations Committee Mental Health Recommendations (DSHS)

  • $20 million to reduce (not eliminate) the statewide waiting list for adult mental health services
  • $2 million for beds to prevent the relinquishment of parental custody to DFPS

House Appropriations Committee Substance Abuse Recommendations (DSHS)

  • $4.9 million to eliminate the 948-person statewide waiting list for substance abuse services
  • $5 million for substance abuse services for individuals referred by DFPS
  • $1.1 million for expansion of the Oxford House model across Texas

Other House Appropriations Committee Behavioral Health-Related Recommendations

  • $39 million for restoration of most of the funding cuts to the Prevention and Early Intervention Service programs (Services to At-Risk¬†Youth, Community Youth Development, Texas families, and other prevention programs)
  • $545,761 to restore funding for the statewide coordination of the Community Resource Coordinating Groups and a statewide data reporting tool
  • $6 million to expand the Texas Corrctional Office on Offenders with Medical and Mental Impairments (TCOOMMI) caseload of adults with serious mental illness
  • $15.2 million for the hiring of mental health professionals in each¬†juvenile probation facility

Other Senate Finance Committee Behavioral Health-Related Recommendations

  • $10.4 million to partially restore funding cuts to Communities in Schools
  • $850,000 for behavioral health personnel to assist soldiers and airmen through the Family Support Services Group (Adjutant General’s Department)
  • $6 million to expand the TCOOMMI caseload of adults with serious mental illness
  • $15.2 million for the hiring of mental health professionals in each¬†juvenile probation facility

While the House still needs to come a long way in increasing funding for mental health and substance abuse community services, it is good to know that these issues are still being addressed in other areas of the budget!

Bills, Bills Coming Out of My Ears!

Well, a few folks have been asking for the updated bill chart, and you can find it here¬†in all of its glory! March 8th was the bill filing deadline, and almost 2,600 bills–or about 44% of total bills–were filed last week! That made for a long weekend and is at least partially responsible for the delay in getting this out for public consumption. But, I’m sure you’ll all forgive me!

MHA is now tracking over 200 bills and will update them weekly. Please note that we will only be tracking the major actions of bills, e.g. when they are voted out of committee and voted out of a chamber. We will not include when a bill is set for hearing or when it’s set to be heard on the floor.¬† However, on some legislation MHA is supporting, you will see Action Alerts when a bill is set for Floor debate. All of that being said, let’s check out some of the major mental health and substance abuse¬†bills filed last week:

HB 2625 by Coleman, which expands the Priority Population served by LMHAs to include single episode or recurrent major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoid disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, dysthymia, attention deficit disorder, or tic disorder/tourette’s syndrome;

HB 2881 by Toth, which creates the Task Force to Reduce the Habitual Incidents of Driving While Intoxicated to study and make recommendations regarding best practices to reduce habitual incidents of driving while intoxicated, as well as fatalities related to driving while intoxicated;

HB 2887 by Davis, which requires DSHS to make Haven for Hope-like grants to local entities to coordinate services for homeless individuals, people with mental illness, and people with substance use disorders.

HB 3003 by Allen, which requires school districts to establish a program to help students transition back into school after being placed in a DAEP, JAEP, TJJD or juvenile probation facility, residential treatment center or public or private placement for 30 or more instructional days;

HB 3326 by Coleman, which requires a private group health plan, including those for small employers, to provide health insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders as defined by the DSM;

HB 3632 by Canales, which requires certain minors convicted of alcohol- or drug-related offenses to take an alcohol awareness program or a drug, alcohol, and substance abuse education program as a condition of community supervision;

HB 3635 by McClendon, which requires school districts to employ a licensed psychologist or licensed professional counselor on each campus in the school district and allows school districts to receive state aid in an amount necessary to carry out these requirements;

HB 3684 by Naishtat, which updates the current Texas Integrated Funding Initiative Consortium statute by giving the consortium responsibility to oversee a state system of care for minors receiving inpatient mental health services, or who are at risk of being placed in a more restrictive environment to receive mental health services;

HB 3692 by Branch, which changes the Primary Care Residency Program to the Graduate Medical Education Program and expands it to include psychiatry and surgery

SB 1114 by Whitmire, which allows a county, municipality or justice or municipal court to employ case managers to provide intervention services to youths at-risk of juvenile justice involvement; prohibits peace officers from issuing citations to students who commit offenses; establishes progressive sanctions for a student before a school district may file a complaint against the student in criminal court;

SB 1178 by Deuell, which requires that school districts train teachers, principals, counselors and all other appropriate school district personnel in how to recognize and appropriately respond to students exhibiting signs of mental illness or of being at risk of suicide

SB 1185 by Huffman, which Requires DSHS to establish and operate a mental health jail diversion pilot program in Harris County for between 500 and 600 individuals using the Critical Time Intervention model;

SB 1291 by Ellis, which makes the possession of a trace amount of a controlled substance a Class C Misdemeanor;

SB 1356 by Van de Putte, which requires juvenile probation officers, detention officers, and court-supervised community-based program staff to receive training in trauma-informed care; and

SB 1477 by Deuell, which requires HHSC to negotiate with the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services for flexibility in the Texas Medicaid program and in obtaining a block grant to cover the Medicaid expansion population under the ACA through premium assistance for the purchase of private health insurance coverage.

In addition, the following bills have been voted out of committee:

HB 144
HB 243
HB 424
HB 473
HB 617
HB 807
HB 808
HB 838
HB 908
SB 715

Remember, you can track all these bills, read their text and find out MHA’s position on them by using our trusty bill chart!

Until I post again…

State and Local Updates: Part 1

In Part 1 of this post, learn about state discussions on Medicaid, local goings on with the Felony Mental Health Court, and what happens When a Mind Changes.

Medicaid Matters

It is clear to any Capitol observer that Medicaid is on the forefront of the minds of Texas legislators, both Republicans and Democrats. To make sure it stays there, approximately 2,000 people gathered at the Capitol last Tuesday to show support for Medicaid expansion as laid out under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For a summary of the rally, check out the post by Peter McGraw of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

On Friday, the House Appropriations Committee heard testimony from experts and elected officials on Medicaid expansion. Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek made a presentation¬†outlining what the expansion would look like in Texas.¬† Along with other provisions of the ACA, the Medicaid expansion would cut the current uninsured rate in half.¬†In addition to the Legislative Budget Board’s earlier estimate that $50 million of state general revenue could draw down $4 billion of federal money in the next biennium, former chief revenue estimator Billy Hamilton stated that the expansion¬†could free up an additional $1.2 billion of general revenue next biennium.¬†Our very own Judge Ed Emmett also testified, sharing that Medicaid expansion has the potential to bring $975 million a year to Harris County. He reminded legislators that “poor people are going to continue to get sick and they’re going to continue to get care,” but the main issue is going to be who pays for it.¬†¬†Currently, local taxpayers are largely footing that bill. He also urged them¬†to recognize the immediate pay off of Medicaid expansion, while also cautioning “that it’s not just about dollars, it’s also about human potential.”¬† Well said, Judge!

Medicaid expansion holds significant potential for people with mental health and substance use disorders. The PCG Report estimated that 90% of current non-Medicaid eligible individuals receiving publicly funded mental health and substance abuse services would qualify if eligibility was expanded.

There’s no doubt that¬†legislators will continue to weigh all options related to this matter, including a¬†“Texas solution” that grants flexibility in the use of Medicaid dollars, potentially steering people into private health plans.¬† We’ll continue to monitor this throughout this session and beyond!

Felony Mental Health Court: A Year Later

Last week, the Harris County Felony Mental Health Court held a stakeholders meeting to give updates on the court since it started operating over a year ago.  Obviously, the court has seen a few major changes over the past few months, including two new judges.  Judges David Mendoza and Brock Thomas will run two dockets for individuals with mental illness and individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, respectively.

Since its inception, the Court has received 159 referrals, with 64 current clients.  Over the past six years, these clients have cumulatively spent over 15,000 days in jail, incurring a cost of close to $900,000 in jail time alone. No doubt, the mental health court has the potential to help these folks maintain their treatment and break the cycle of incarceration.

Dr. Clete Snell of the University of Houston conducted a comprehensive review of the Court and had several recommendations for implementation, including:

  • Reviewing the original planning document for the court, which consisted of recommendations from criminal justice and mental health stakeholders. MHA played an integral role in the planning of the mental health court and hopes that some early recommendations, such as accepting certain violent offenders, will be considered;
  • Establishing a committee to identify additional funding for intensive treatment services. The lack of community mental health services has hampered the Court‚Äôs ability to provide alternatives to incarceration;
  • Implementing specific phases to mark¬†participants’ progress. The report notes that phases can serve as a “powerful motivator” for participants; and
  • Individualizing sanctions for court infractions, while using jail as a penalty as a last resort.

Over all, the Court’s first year of operation was considered a great success.  The mental health community should continue to support the court and advocate for expansion opportunities whenever and wherever they arise.

When a Mind Changes

I am so very proud of a new MHA publication,¬†‚ÄúWhen a Mind Changes: Personal Stories About Mental Illness and Its Effect on Individuals, Families and Communities.”¬†This booklet,¬†which includes forewords by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Houston Mayor Annise Parker, tells real stories about real people in the Greater Houston area.

The stories of mental illness are as varied as we are. Take Elizabeth McIngvale, a young girl¬†ravaged by a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder before she even turned 13. Or Dr. James McSwain, Principal of Lamar High School, who actually allowed his son to remain in the Harris County Jail so he could receive needed mental health treatment. Or Brenda Bouie, who lived in Hermann Park for 17 years, largely due to her battle with Schizophrenia.¬† Their words are powerful; their courage is inestimable. You’ll recognize fears, hopes, and dreams that you or someone you know¬†may be dealing with right now.

I encourage you to get to know the people and the issues in this booklet. We hope it will promote a better understanding of mental illness and the need for services among the general public and, in particular, our elected officials.

If you would like hard copies of this booklet, please contact Traci Patterson at tpatterson@mhahouston.org.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned for more budget updates and bills tomorrow!

Good News Post

In this post, learn about Capitol Day, the budget, and bills!

Capitol Day 2 Capitol Day 3Capitol Day pic

A Clear Message on Capitol Day

On February 28th, hundreds of mental health consumers, family members, providers and other advocates descended on the Capitol to send legislators a clear message that mental health must be a priority this session.

MHA worked with NAMI of Greater Houston and St. Joseph’s House to send 2 busloads of advocates to the Capitol. Houston area advocates received advocacy trainings on the bus from MHA staff and volunteers, and received additional training materials from statewide advocacy groups in Austin. Before commencing with Capitol visits, all mental health advocates participated in a (positively) raucous rally that included addresses from a number of legislators, including Harris County members Sen. John Whitmire, Rep. Debbie Riddle, and Rep. Gene Wu.

Advocates across the state met with a majority of the members of the Legislature to advocate for increased funding for mental health and other legislative initiatives. Of course, ALL of the participants are special, but I want to take the opportunity for a few shout-outs.

I want to thank MHA’s two Betsy Schwartz Interns–Yvonne Mendoza and Lisa Richardson–for their help in making Capitol Day a success. Yvonne conducted one of the legislative trainings on the bus, and both interns made legislative visits.

The contingent from St. Joseph’s House also made quite the impression on legislative staff with their heartfelt accounts of living with mental illness. A Chief of Staff for one of the members of the House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee commented on how courageous the group was and the importance of putting a face on mental illness. Kudos to Grant Kennedy and Laurie Hallmark for making that possible!

Finally, I want to thank mental health advocate and philanthropist Maureen Hackett for making several legislative visits that morning with MHA CEO Susan Fordice. Mrs. Hackett, along with her husband, Jim, also visited with Governor Perry’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief Budget staff person regarding the importance of funding mental health services.

All in all, it was a FABULOUS day at the Capitol. But this is just the beginning. For everyone who attended–and even for those who did not–we’ve got to keep making our voices heard!

Andrea Wants to Marry the Senate Finance Article II Workgroup

No worries, honey–that headline isn’t literal! BUT I am just so completely impressed with the work of the Senate Finance Article II Workgroup under the leadership of Sen. Jane Nelson. While mental health advocates were trouncing around the Capitol, the full Senate Finance Committee voted to adopt the Article II Workgroup recommendations, which included an additional $197 million for mental health, as well as $30 million for substance abuse. The breakdown is as follows:

Mental Health

  • $115.5 million for a comprehensive mental health capacity expansion, which includes public awareness, prevention and early identification services, community and crisis services, and expansion of the Youth Empowerment Services wrap-around program. Each item was explained more fully in a previous post;
  • $57.2 million to completely eliminate the almost 6,500-person statewide mental health services waiting list (Almost 1,700 in Harris County);
  • $26.9 million for housing supports for people with mental illness,¬†including rental assistance and a new home-¬†and community-based Medicaid 1915i state plan option; and
  • $2 million for psychiatric residency positions within state hospitals

Substance Abuse

  • $4.9 million to eliminate the almost 1,000-person statewide substance abuse services waiting list;
  • $15.4 million for a 10% substance abuse provider rate increase;
  • $10.1 million to fund substance abuse services for individuals referred by the Department of Family and Protective Services; and
  • $1.1 million for the expansion of the Oxford House model in communities across Texas

I think it would be a good idea to thank the members of the Senate Finance Article II Workgroup for their prioritization of these funds.  MHA will be sending out an action alert asking members to do just that.

Looking for More from House Appropriations Committee

The House Appropriations Committee is meeting today to hear recommendations from the House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee.¬† From discussions with members of the subcommittee, the House’s mental health and substance abuse recommendations fund just a few of the exceptional items partially, leaving much left to be desired. However, the good news is, nothing is final until May, any many observers, including those in the Governor’s Office, feel that the House will eventually come around. I will keep you posted on House deliberations in this area!

New Senator from Harris County

Congratulations are in order for former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia! In the special election held this past Saturday to fill Senate District 6, the seat of the late senator Mario Gallegos, Sylvia Garcia garnered 53% of the vote to defeat Rep. Carol Alvarado and become the newest Texas State Senator from Harris County.

Sen. Elect Garcia was a firm supporter of mental health and substance abuse issues during her tenure on Harris County Commissioners Court, and I have no doubt she will continue to do so in the Texas Senate.  MHA looks forward to working with her to move important behavioral health legislation forward this session!

Behavioral Health Legislation

As of yesterday, over 3,400 bills have been filed by House and Senate members. We’ll probably see another 1,000 or more before the end of the week.¬† Mental health and substance abuse bills of interest include:

HB 2240 by Sylvester Turner, which requires the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), in coordination with TEA, DFPS and the Texas Homeless Education Office to conduct a study on homeless youth, including the number of homeless youth, their needs, and how well current programs are meeting those needs;

SB 831 by Taylor, which requires DSHS, TEA and Regional Education Service Centers to develop and annually update a list of best practice-based mental health promotion, positive youth development and substance abuse prevention and intervention programs that school districts may implement. This is another recommendation from the School Behavioral Health Initiative;

SB 861 by Davis, which requires the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to require an alcoholic beverage permit holder to post a sign on the premises warning about the dangers of driving while intoxicated and the average cost a person convicted of the offense can expect to pay; and

SB 898 by Van de Putte, which requires the Department of State Health Services to develop a mental health program for veterans that includes peer counseling, suicide prevention, and jail diversion

In addition to bills that have been filed, a number of bills MHA has been tracking have been voted out of committee.  They include:

SB 250 by West
SB 50 by Zaffirini
SB 426 by Nelson
SB 306 by Huffman
SB 109 by West
SB 126 by Nelson

For a more in-depth look at mental health and substance abuse legislation and to see MHA Houston’s position on these bills, click here.

As always, stay tuned for more relevant updates!