MHA Houston Responds to Mental Health in Gun Violence Plan

*********** PRESS RELEASE ***********

HOUSTON, TX (January 17, 2013) –Mental Health America of Greater Houston joins advocates and supporters nationwide to laud President Obama’s commitment to the mental health of the nation’s young people and people with mental illnesses.  The release of the President’s plan to protect the well-being of young people and our communities by increasing access to mental health services in schools while also reducing gun violence provides a significant opportunity for our country to uniquely meet the mental health and safety needs of citizens in our country.
“As mental health advocates, Mental Health America of Greater Houston is encouraged by these recommendations which boldly express the importance of mental health and mental illness prevention and early intervention that focuses on young people and educators,” said Susan Fordice, president and CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston. “We are hopeful that this national investment in mental health helps eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and contributes to healthier people, schools and communities throughout the nation.”
The plan outlines several public safety recommendations including strengthening background checks and removing military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines from the streets.  It also prominently shares key mental health early intervention and prevention strategies, such as incorporating “crisis intervention teams” of law enforcement officers and members of the mental health community in schools to respond to and assist students in crisis.  It also cites the need for stronger approaches to improving mental health services and access to treatment specifically for students and young adults with mental health concerns.
The Texas mental health system is woefully underfunded and as a state ranks 49th in per capita in public mental health spending.  The release of this national plan has the potential to dramatically influence education and gun legislation, as well as mental health policies nationally and in our state.
“With this being a legislative year in Texas, Mental Health America of Greater Houston (MHA Houston) along with school officials and behavioral health advocates have been looking at viable solutions to improve the prevention, identification, and treatment of behavioral health issues among students,” said Andrea Usanga, director of policy and governmental relations at Mental Health America of Greater Houston. According to Usanga, who also leads the Harris County School Behavioral Health Initiative (SBHI), “members of the initiative anticipate developing a plan that offers solid recommendations to address and eliminate many of the challenges or barriers that some schools and districts experience as they work to address student behavioral health needs.”
SBHI is finalizing a set of recommendations aimed at the Texas Legislature, State Board of Education, and Texas Education Agency, Texas Department of State Health Services, Education Service Centers, school districts, behavioral health providers and community organizations. The recommendations range from restoration of the education cuts the Texas Legislature made during the last legislative session to adoption of Social and Emotional Learning standards by the State Board of Education to requiring that educator preparation programs include training in the detection and education of students with behavioral health needs. The recommendations will be released early February 2013.
To view the full report, “Now is the Time,” and the national mental health recommendations, visit
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