Category Archives: News

TJP Jailhouse Stories

This spring 2014, Texas Jail Project is launching a new project called
“Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pretrial Detention”
which will collect accounts about what happens to people held in county jails before they are tried for a crime. If you have a story about what you or your loved one experienced while in jail, please contact TJP to set up an interview! Contributors can remain anonymous – it’s just important for your voice to be heard. Jailhouse Stories will be shared with media outlets, lawmakers, and social leaders to educate Texas about the need to incarcerate less, create more diversion programs, and improve conditions in local jails.

TO SEND US YOUR STORY, connect at:
Texas Jail Project
http://www.texasjailproject.org
email: Info@texasjailproject.org
call: 512.597.8746
write: 1712 E. Riverside Drive, Box 190; Austin, TX 78741

What is the Texas Jail Project?
Texas Jail Project (TJP) works to ensure healthier, humane conditions in our local jails and advocates for improved accountability for jailers. On an average day, about 67,000 people – mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, sisters, and daughters – are incarcerated in 246 county jails across Texas. Almost 60% of those being held have not been convicted and are being held pretrial. Many must deal with the difficulties of being in jail while also facing the challenges of addictions or mental health disorders.

WHAT WE DO

 DIRECT SUPPORT: TJP receives hundreds of complaints and questions that illustrate ongoing issues and unmet needs in county jails. We try to respond to each, while posting content on our website that provides family and friends with helpful information on how to aid their loved one in receiving fair treatment while they are being held.

 ADVOCACY: TJP represents the concerns of inmates and their families to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) and the Texas legislature, providing feedback on the standards and processes regulating jails. TJP especially seeks to represent those from special populations who need improved care: mentally ill people, women (particularly pregnant inmates), veterans, and substance abusers.

 PUBLIC EDUCATION: Informing the public about county jails is a vital part of bringing positive reform to the current system. TJP has participated in rallies and vigils that help raise awareness of unjust conditions and has contributed articles for various media sources. For years the popular “Inmate Stories” section of our website has educated, validated, and empowered by giving voice to those who have been impacted by the local criminal justice system.

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understanding Health Insurance Marketplace

The re-launched HealthCare.gov and CuidadoDeSalud.gov (for Spanish-speakers) will help Americans understand and select insurance coverage that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins in October. By answering a few questions on the site TODAY, you can access a list of coverage options you and your family may qualify for, a personalized checklist to help you get ready to apply, and other helpful information. Individuals and families can also dial 1-800-318-2596 to prepare for open enrollment and ultimately sign up for private health insurance. Please share this information with your contacts around the state of Texas; access to health insurance is critical for the recovery process.

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

Summary: After Florida Medicaid Reversal, Hints of Compromise in Texas

Just this past Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that he would finally accept the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This choice “leaves Texas as the last big-state holdout” as a result of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s strong opposition against cooperation for expansion. However, since Florida was granted permission to run its program differently, State Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has been working with House colleagues to come up with a compromise that both Texans and the federal government could agree on. Expansion in Texas could provide benefits and services to millions of uninsured Texans, including those with mental illnesses. Hopefully a sensible solution on Medicaid expansion can be reached soon in Texas.

            http://www.texastribune.org/2013/02/22/lawmakers-consider-medicaid-expansion-possibilitie/

President Obama on mental health care

*Please note: This blog post was authored by Stephanie Yin, a Human Development and Family Sciences major at the University of Texas and the new Public Policy Intern for NAMI Texas.

This morning, President Obama and VP Biden held a press conference covering the issue of gun violence. Twenty-three proposals for minimizing the rate of gun violence and for increasing the safety of Americans were introduced. One of the proposals touched on the topic of improving mental health services. The Obama administration is currently suggesting $25 million as an incentive for states to work towards innovative approaches to reach out to young adults in need of treatment for mental illnesses. The age group of 16-25 years is targeted since it has the highest rates of mental illness and is found to be the least likely to seek help. Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (Project AWARE) is another part of the plan in improving mental health services. Project AWARE includes Mental Health First Aid training to educate teachers and school staff in recognizing signs of mental illnesses in young adults and how to refer them to treatment. $40 million is suggested to go into this project so that schools may work with law enforcement and local facilities to provide mental health services to students. 5,000 more mental health professionals will also be trained to focus on helping students and young adults. Lastly, the President intends to release finalized rules on the federal mental health parity law, which requires insurance companies to cover mental disabilities the same way that they would with physical disabilities.

More resources: 

 The video of the press conference can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=s7ri0U7jSs8

-“Now is the Time: The President’s Plan to Protect our Children and our Communities by Reducing Gun Violence”: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/wh_now_is_the_time_full.pdf

-Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ State Health Official Letter on the application of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to Medicaid managed care organizations, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and alternative benefit (benchmark) plans: http://www.medicaid.gov/Federal-Policy-Guidance/downloads/SHO-13-001.pdf

-USA Today article on the President’s mental health announcements: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2013/01/16/obama-calls-for-changes-to-mental-health-care/1839733/

-TheHill.com article on the President’s mental health announcements: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/mental-health/277529-obama-gun-plan-calls-for-long-awaited-rules-on-mental-health#ixzz2IA634NzX

Psychiatric Beds, Incarceration, and Murders Involving Firearms – Related?

*Please note: This blog post was authored by Stephanie Yin, a Human Development and Family Sciences major at the University of Texas and the new Public Policy Intern for NAMI Texas.

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law recently published a report entitled, “The Relationship between the Availability of Psychiatric Hospital Beds, Murders Involving Firearms, and Incarceration Rates”. This report can be accessed online at: www.bazelon.org

Recent mass murders have brought public attention to weaknesses in the US mental health care system.  As a result, arguments in favor of expanding psychiatric hospital beds have risen to respond to these tragedies. When comparing related FBI data, the Bazelon Center found a very low correlation between the number of psychiatric beds and the number of murders by firearms or the number of incarcerated people with mental disabilities. Thus, there is no statistically significant relationship tying the limited availability of psychiatric beds to either of the two issues mentioned above. In conclusion, the solution is not necessarily to increase the number of available psychiatric hospital beds. Instead, there is substantial evidence that our focus should be on changing the system from being crisis-driven to addressing the problem on the front-end through early intervention and prevention efforts.

Vote for Mental Health Care

This is an Election Day reminder to please vote in support of mental health care. As part of NAMI’s “Mental Health Care Gets My Vote” initiative, NAMI chapters around the US have been particularly active in this election cycle to mobilize and empower individuals and families affected by mental illness to register and vote in 2012. Although we are waiting to hear back about an official count of how many voters NAMI Texas affiliates registered to vote, it’s safe to say that NAMI members around the state of Texas registered over one hundred voters in 2012. NAMI Texas thanks you sincerely for anything you did to contribute to this important effort.

-You can find your polling place by visiting the Texas Secretary of State’s website: https://team1.sos.state.tx.us/voterws/viw/faces/SearchSelectionPolling.jsp      

-All polling places in Texas are open until 7 pm CST.
-There are a number of critical elections on the ballot in Texas, including: US President, US Senator, US House of Representatives, State Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, and Railroad Commissioner. It is also likely that there are local/county ballot initiatives in your area that directly impact mental health care.

 If you haven’t already, please vote today and make mental health care a primary consideration in your voting decision. Thank you very much for your time.