Texas historically has ranked at the bottom of states in per capita mental health funding. The impact of an underfunded behavioral health care system is seen in reduced emergency department capacity, increased hospital readmissions and increased hospital uncompensated care.
In addition, the number of psychiatrists and other behavioral health care professionals is insufficient to serve all Texans living with mental health or substance abuse issues. Three-quarters of the state’s counties are designated as mental health professional shortage areas; 70 percent of counties have no practicing psychiatrists.
Building on the investment in behavioral health care services made by the 83rd Legislature, lawmakers this session provided significant new mental health and substance use disorder funding in the state budget for 2016-17. Lawmakers also passed legislation to fund loan repayment for certain mental health professionals to address inadequate access to behavioral health care for public program enrollees and those in underserved areas.
Although the legislature approved legislation that would have allowed hospitals to permit physicians to detain temporarily a person with a mental illness deemed to be a danger to self or others, Governor Abbott vetoed the legislation, citing constitutional concerns about infringement of liberty.
THA will continue to work with stakeholders to educate lawmakers and the public on the need for a policy that allows physicians to temporarily hold a person with mental illness who is a danger to self or others.