In 2011, the state of Texas was ranked 49th in per capita spending on mental health by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on health care issues in the U.S. Since then, state legislators have approved two consecutive budgets that feature increases in mental health funding, including a more than $150 million increase for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 biennium.
The funding will mainly be used in four key areas: mental health services for adults, services for children, community crisis services and substance abuse prevention, intervention and treatment.
Mental health funding for adults specifically received a $34 million boost. This money is expected to provide access to services to 10,000 more adults statewide in 2016 and 2017 compared to the previous two years, according to Bill Kelly, director of policy and government relations for Mental Health America Greater Houston. [polldaddy poll=9187396]
“With $33 million additional dollars in crisis services, the numbers are even better,” Kelly said. “Over 31,000 more people will receive crisis residential and outpatient services this biennium than that last.”
Melissa Tucker, chief operating officer for Gulf Coast Center, an organization that offers mental health services in Brazoria and Galveston counties, said funding through the Texas 1115 Medicaid Transformation Waiver program has provided more opportunities for treatment by expanding the amount of eligible patients.
“Goals of the waiver included plans to integrate systems of care to ensure patients receive the right care at the right time and in the right setting within Texas,” she said. “The waiver funds have specifically allowed Gulf Coast Center to expand traditional services to meet some of the unique needs of individuals residing within our local area.”
Despite the recent increases in funding, Texas still ranks in the bottom five states for spending on mental health services per capita, said Jeanette Taylor, executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Gulf Coast.
While funding has allowed the Gulf Coast Center to increase the number of adults and children it was able to serve over the last two years, Tucker said the biggest impact has come in the form of providing enhanced services.
Officials said funding for home- and community-based services has been a focus. With the closest state hospitals offering mental health treatment—one in Rusk and one in Austin—more than 150 miles away, it is important to address issues closer to home.
“Access to treatment is important with any medical condition, including mental illness,” Tucker said. “Providing community-based services and treatment increases opportunities for individuals and families to access care. This level of access is critical when working with individuals who have a severe and persistent mental illness.”
Officials with Memorial Hermann advocated for more home-based and community-based mental health funding as well.
“There is a huge need for that in our community,” Director of Government Relations Ashlea Quinonez said. “If someone is suffering from mental health issues, having resources available in the community helps make sure they’re not getting to a critical state.”