Texas Senate votes to increase funding for mental health services

Dear NAMI Texas Member or Friend,

Various media outlets are reporting that the Texas Senate passed a budget yesterday that would increase funding for mental health and substance abuse services by $240 million in the upcoming biennium. Only two senators voted against the budget. It is expected that the House will vote on the budget in the next day or two – time is of the essence to help them understand that an increase in funding for mental health services must be written into law.

-Reuters article in the Chicago Tribune: “The bill adds $240 million to reduce waiting lists for mental health and substance abuse programs, an infusion that came in light of questions about mental health funding following recent school shootings, Williams said.” – http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-usa-texas-budgetbre92j1fw-20130320,0,4587537.story
-YourHoustonNews.com: “The Senate budget increases spending for mental health services by more than $240 million across various state agencies. Most of the increase for mental health services is reflected by an additional $226 million for community mental health/substance abuse services and for reducing mental health waiting list time.” – http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/cypresscreek/news/legislature-senate-passes—budget-plan/article_c89bcef4-91b7-11e2-bae7-0019bb2963f4.html
-The San Antonio Express-News: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Senate-approves-budget-warned-of-transportation-4371302.php

Indeed, the Legislative Budget Board’s ‘Summary of the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 1’ (the bill was passed by the Senate as reported by the Senate Finance Committee) states that “an increase of $244.7 million in General Revenue Funds is included to expand statewide mental health services for children and adults.” – http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Appropriations_Bills/83/CSSB1-FINAL_wc.pdf

The bill now moves to the Texas House. As mental health advocates in a state that ranks close to the bottom for mental health funding, we must demand that the House vote in support of a similar increase. Please either place a call to your representative in the Texas House or see below for instructions on how to send your representative an email, with suggested talking points and a sample email message below as well.

You may contact your legislator at the following link
http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/ , complete the form Who represents me? Click the link to your representative and scroll down to complete the e-mail form.

Please feel free to copy and paste the sample letter below (don’t forget to add the correct name and your own personal comments):

Dear Rep.  _______,

I am contacting you as a constituent of your district to urge you to support increased funding for mental health services (SB1 & HB1). We can no longer settle as 49th place in the US for mental health care.

Please consider that one in four adults and one in five children have a diagnosable mental disorder. Inpatient behavioral health facilities are at capacity across the state.  Too many people are waiting three- to six-months time to see a psychiatrist for outpatient treatment. There are limited number of doctors that may take only certain insurance or do not treat children. Children often wait six to seven months just to get a diagnosis and medication. The time is now for Texas to increase funding for mental health services, as recently recognized by the Texas Senate.

Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,

(Your NAME)

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me at the NAMI Texas office (512-693-2000) or at my email, ghansch@namitexas.org. Thank you very much for your attention to this.

Sincerely,

Greg Hansch (Gregory Hansch )
Policy Coordinator, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Texas
Mental Health Policy Fellow, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

NAMI Office: 512-693-2000 (Toll Free: 1-800-633-3760)
Cell phone: 908-229-7082
ghansch@namitexas.org

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