Did Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Cut Mental Health Funding By $211 Million?
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been facing criticism over spending priorities in the wake of a deadly mass shooting at a mall in Allen. While the governor has pointed to mental health issues as the root cause of violence, critics have accused him of cutting mental health funding. In May 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted that Abbott had cut $211 million in mental health funding. Others have made similar accusations on social media. However, a fact-check by PolitiFact found that these claims are mostly false.
According to PolitiFact, Abbott did transfer approximately $210.7 million from the State Commission on Health and Human Services over two years to support a border initiative. However, the state has replaced those wired dollars with federal COVID-19 funds, so mental health services have not been impacted. Abbott wrote in a letter to state departments that the money would expire if it was not transferred to the border initiative. He did not explain the “other sources” of funding in the letter.
Texas lawmakers have invested over $4 billion in the border initiative, called Operation Lone Star, which pays staff to patrol the border and protect the interests of private landowners by apprehending migrants who trespass on their property. Abbott said in April 2022 that Texas was earmarking about $495 million more for the deal, days before it ran out of cash. Critics have argued that this money should have been spent on mental health services instead.
Texas ranks last for “access to care” for mental health services, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America. The state is one of 10 that has not expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, which could provide mental health care to more than a million people. However, Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor, argued that Abbott’s critics should focus on opposition to expanding Medicaid rather than the budget transfer.
After a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde in June 2022, state officials announced $105.5 million largely for school safety equipment, including $11 million for school mental health services. Despite Abbott’s defense of the budget transfer, mental health advocates argue that more needs to be done to address access to mental health care in the state.
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