Texas legislature allocates billions of dollars to fund mental illness amid another mass shooting

Texas Governor Greg Abbott emphasized the need for more mental health support after another mass shooting occurred in Allen, Texas. The increase in mass shootings from Sutherland Springs to Santa Fe, El Paso, Uvalde, and now Allen has become a rising concern in the state, prompting state leaders to address the possibility of an underlying root cause related to mental illness and treatment.

Allison Greer Francis, the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Bexar County Health Services Center, stated that the state Legislature, House of Representatives, and Senate have increased their focus on mental health and substance use. However, despite the several calls for increased mental health support over the years, Governor Abbott cut more than $200 million from the department responsible for overseeing mental health programs in April 2022. It was not until the shooting at Robb’s elementary school in May 2022 that the state legislators took mental health funding more seriously.

Frances Greer elaborated that the proposed budget for mental health programs and treatment this year is larger than the past three legislative sessions combined. However, the access to mental health services poses a critical problem for those in need of treatment. The proposed funds for behavioral health in the next biennium will be over $9 billion, 11% larger than in the current biennium FY 2022-2023. The waitlists for people who try to gain access to inpatient facilities remain long, and access is limited due to workforce problems and funding.

According to the nonprofit organization Mental Health America, Texas was ranked number one in adult mental health and 33rd in child mental health in the nation last year. There are approximately 400,000 people in Bexar County with mental illness, yet the contract signed with the state to serve those people is limited to 38,000 individuals.

Greer Francis remains hopeful that the next round of mental health funding will pass and aid those who require it most. Long-term residence is also needed for individuals who require more than 30-day treatment. Investments are being made to improve the existing facilities, such as the San Antonio State Hospital, which will receive approximately $250 million in funding that will be completed in early 2024.

Frances Greer emphasized how childhood disorders have an immense impact on an individual’s mental health and how early intervention and treatment can benefit the community. With the current increase in mass shootings in the state, mental health support is more critical than ever.

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