Legislative Wrap Up Shows Greater Attention to Mental Health and Substance Abuse by Texas Lawmakers
HOUSTON, TX (7/31/13) - The 83rd Texas Legislative Regular Session convened on Tuesday, January 8th, following one of the most challenging sessions in Texas history. Two years ago, lawmakers were facing an estimated $27 billion shortfall. This session, the Texas economy had rebounded, generating almost $9 billion more during the current budget cycle than was originally anticipated.
At the same time, many factors had heightened legislators’ interest in behavioral health (mental health and substance abuse) issues. For its part, the Department of State Health Services contracted with the Public Consulting Group to study the public behavioral health system. One of their key recommendations was to significantly increase funding for the system, which has been woefully underfunded for decades.
Moreover, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services was conducting its own study of the public mental health system and heard public testimony from stakeholders about Texas’ poor investment in these important services. In its final report, the Committee cited the potential need for an increase in resources for community mental health services in order to account for population growth and prevent the misuse and overuse of jails and emergency rooms.
Finally, the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Conn. shed a national spotlight upon mental illness. While it remains unclear whether or not the shooter actually had a mental health diagnosis, media coverage undoubtedly prompted many legislators to seek greater understanding of this issue and made them more open to the information shared by consumers, family members and other advocates.
By “sine die,” or adjournment of the regular legislative session, on May 27th, the Legislature had approved a number of significant behavioral health initiatives, including historic funding increases. For this reason, Mental Health America of Greater Houston (MHA Houston) considers the 83rd Legislature the “session of behavioral health.”
To review the 83rd Texas Legislative Session Wrap-Up visit the Mental Health America of Greater Houston website at http://www.mhahouston.org/mha-advocacy/ for a listing of the behavioral health victories accomplished this session that can help improve the health and well-being of all Texans.
Mental Health America of Greater Houston is one of the area's oldest mental health education and advocacy organizations.