More on the Budget and Bill Updates

In this post, get an update on the state budget, some federal mental health news, and more bills!

State Budget

Last Thursday, the Texas House had a marathon debate on CSSB 1. The $193.8 billion bill passed the House 135 to 12. House members adopted dozens of amendments, including the following mental-health related amendments:

Amendment 41 by Zerwas, which would require DSHS and other state agencies to review and revise contracts with LMHAs to ensure compliance with federal requirements and to coordinate with private hospitals to improve access to services and funding under the 1115 Waiver;

Amendment 44 by Naishtat, which would provide $5 million over the biennium for technical assistance and grants to school districts that implement best practice-based positive youth development, mental health promotion, and substance abuse prevention and intervention programs;

Amendment 48 by Menendez, which would designate $37 million of mental health funds to expand or improve community mental health services and ensure funding equity among LMHAs;

Amendment 49 by Menendez, which would designate $57.2 million of mental health funds to eliminating the children and adult waiting lists and allocate any unused funds to LMHAs that are below per capita funding levels;

Amendment 57 by Naishtat, which would require HHSC to hire one FTE to maintain an interagency consortium to oversee the Texas Integrated Funding Initiative; and

Amendment 66 by Naishtat, which would allocate $150,000 to HHSC to facilitate cross-agency services to improve service delivery to, and outcomes for, children and their families.

In addition, an amendment by Rep. Lon Burnam and Rep. John Zerwas that would have set the parameters for Medicaid expansion in Texas initially passed by a vote of 86 to 57. A few hours later, however, Rep. Geannie Morrison made a motion to reconsider the vote, which passed by a margin of 93 to 54. Rep. Burnam subsequently withdrew the amendment.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the end of expansion discussions. The Senate already included a similar rider in its version of the budget, and there is buzz around the Capitol that the House Appropriations Committee will be considering Rep. Zerwas’ “Texas solution” Medicaid expansion bill next week. So it aint over til it’s over…

Mental Health Moving Forward at the Federal Level

There are also some positive mental health developments going on at the federal level. President Obama is set to release his budget today, and reports indicate that he is asking for at least $235 million more for mental health services, including many of the projects he recommended in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy. These include funding to train educators and other individuals on how to recognize the signs of mental illness, as well as funding to expand the mental health workforce.

Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee currently is marking up the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act, a bill to reauthorize and improve programs related to mental health and substance use
disorders. While the text of the legislation is not yet available online, it likely is a combination of already filed legislation, including some of the President’s mental health recommendations. It is being sponsored by Chairman Tom Harkin, and is co-sponsored by 5 Republicans, including Ranking Sen. Lamar Alexander, and 4 Democrats on the committee. I’ll share more on this next week as additional information becomes available.

Behavioral Health Legislation

Many pieces of mental health and substance abuse legislation have been on the move. The following bills have been voted out of committee or their respective chamber:

VOTED OUT OF COMMITTEE

HB 459
Relating to the creation of a navigator program as described by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

HB 517
Relating to the eligibility of inmates convicted of certain intoxication offenses for release on parole or mandatory supervision.

HB 1191
Relating to certain information about housing for persons with mental illness provided through the Texas Information and Referral Network Internet site.

HB 1561
Relating to access to a deceased person’s mental health information.

HB 1739
Relating to the administration of psychoactive medications to persons receiving services in certain facilities.

HB 2240
Relating to a study on homeless youth.

SB 11
Relating to the drug testing of certain persons seeking financial assistance benefits.

SB 263
Relating to the designation of certain synthetic cannabinoids as controlled substances and controlled substance analogues under the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

SB 264
Relating to the addition of a synthetic hallucinogenic substance to Penalty Group 2 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

SB 418
Relating to a notification requirement if a public school campus or open-enrollment charter school does not have a nurse assigned to the campus during all instructional hours.

SB 646
Relating to court-ordered outpatient mental health services.

SB 898
Relating to the mental health program for veterans.

VOTED OUT OF CHAMBER

HB 243
Relating to the authority of a community center that provides mental health or mental retardation services to sell certain real property of the center.

HB 808
Relating to the authority of a psychologist to delegate the provision of certain care to a person under the psychologist’s supervision, including a person training to become a psychologist.

HB 838
Relating to the monitoring of certain medications provided to foster children.

SB 1115
Relating to reporting, standards, restrictions, and requirements regarding public school disciplinary actions.

You can find out more about these bills using MHA’s bill tracker here.

Hasta next week!

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