As the 84th Legislative Session begins, our lawmakers are only constitutionally required to do one thing: pass a budget. While likely to pass over 1,000 other pieces of legislation, the Legislature is legally bound to determine the funding for state services for the next biennium. And that bill, the Appropriations Bill, is where questions about the financing for mental health services are answered.
Before looking at this biennium, it is worth looking at were we started. Historically, Texas has not funded services on the level with other states. The best study of this was done by the Kaiser Family Foundation in comparing per capita spending on mental health services.
From an interview I gave with Houston Public Media’s Craig Cohen on an episode of “Houston Matters” in June of 2014,
“For the Fiscal Year 2010, Texas ranked 49th in terms of per capita spending on mental health with right at $39. Keep that 39 dollar figure in mind for comparison sake. Our neighbors to the east in Louisiana spend $62 per capita, and further down the road, Alabama spends $78. Mississippi, who we are often compared to for social services, spends $114. The national average is $120.”
So with that historical under investment in mind, what does Texas spend on mental health now? To best show the answer, our friends at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute produce the following slide that breaks down the figures.
The vast majority of state spending on mental health comes from the $1.16 billion spent yearly by the Department of State Health Services. Roughly $160 million a year is spent on substance abuse.
Getting your head around those big numbers helps to show just how successful the last legislative session was for funding. A chart from the House Appropriations Committee hearing this summer outlines the additional $312 million in increased spending within DSHS. A breakdown of these additional expenditures is listed on the attached chart.
While badly needed, last session’s invest won’t solve the problem of serving Texans with mental health needs. Aside from continued investment from lawmakers, Texas needs to expand the footprint of services so more people can have access. Thanks to a partnership between Texas and the federal government, and yes you heard that right, we are doing just that. More on that next time.
This is Bill Kelly for Minding Houston, a presentation of Mental Health America of Greater Houston.
This episodes music included “Never Let it Go” by Bluesraiders, “Strange Sensations” by Anitek and “Plethora” by Anitek.