Advances Made To Improve Mental Health Services In Texas

August 15, 2014

Significant steps were taken this week to improve mental health services in Texas, beginning with the adoption of a modification to the Department of State Health Service's (DSHS) Sunset report by Texas State Senator Jane Nelson.

Senator Nelson's modification, which is intended to increase local involvement in the hiring and recruitment processes at state hospitals; expand contracting for inpatient beds in the community; better align incentives in our mental health system to achieve outlined goals; ensure that Texas is purchasing outcomes through the mental health contracting process; and strengthen and streamline the stakeholder input process, was approved without objection by the 10-member Sunset Advisory Commission during Wednesday's hearing.

"Sunset did an excellent job of outlining the problems in our mental health system in their report, and I believe my modification will help us achieve a better, more accountable behavioral health system," said Senator Nelson.

On Thursday and Friday, during presentations to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, DSHS Commissioner David Lakey reported that DSHS had received over $300 million in additional funding for the 2014-2015 biennium and has been able to implement several major mental health and substance abuse initiatives, including increasing the public’s understanding of mental illness, providing timely access to services in the most appropriate setting and providing services closer to home.

He also reported that due to the increase in funding, waiting lists for community mental health services have been nearly eliminated. In February 2013, there were 5,321 adults and 194 children on waiting lists for mental health services. As of May 2014, the number of adults on waiting lists had dropped to 285, and there were no children on the waiting list. As of March 2014, 1,435 adults had been moved into a more appropriate level of community mental health care. The number of adults receiving substance abuse treatment per month has also risen, from an average of 8,484 adults in 2013 to 9,306 in 2014.

"Last session the Legislature heavily invested in Texas' mental health services, and I am happy to see it has had a major impact," said Senator Nelson. "There is will among the Legislature to take another big step forward and to expand on this progress."

To view the proposed modification to the DSHS Sunset report, please visit the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission's website at www.sunset.texas.gov. A copy of the Department of State Health Services report to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee can also be found online.