85th Texas Legislature Wrap-up

from NAMI Texas | June 14, 2017

On May 29th, the Texas Legislature adjourned sine die following 140 days of policymaking. The NAMI Texas public policy team spent most of the day at the Texas State Capitol, visiting with and thanking legislators and their staff. We’ll be seeing them again soon – Governor Abbott has called the Legislature back for a special session beginning July 18th. While several items of interest are set to be addressed in the special session and many other mental health policy issue areas are in need of attention leading into and during the 2019 legislative session, mental health advocates should take a moment to reflect on and be grateful for the Legislature’s recent work on mental health.

*Please note: At the time that we are writing this – June 9th – most of the initiatives listed below have not been signed by the Governor. He has until Sunday, June 18th to make his decisions on bills.

Capitol Day 2017For the third consecutive session, the Legislature increased funding for mental health services. On the outpatient side, this investment includes (but is not limited to) $62.6 million in new funds to increase access to community mental health services, $30 million for a matching grant program for community mental health programs, $25 million for Healthy Community Collaborative homeless service programs (including $10 million for rural areas), $3.4 million for peer services, over $1.5 million for Clubhouses, and several targeted initiatives related to mental illness in the foster care system. As for inpatient services, the Legislature funded items such as $300 million for the new construction of state hospitals, $160 million for deferred maintenance at state hospitals and state supported living centers, $24.8 million to maintain state hospital service levels, $20.7 million to purchase additional community psychiatric hospital beds, and $10.3 million to increase maximum security bed capacity. Also of particular interest in the budget is $37.5 million in matching grant funds for jail diversion, nearly $1 million to extend the availability of medications post-release from prison, judicial mental health education program funding, $1 million to continue the forensic peer support program, veterans mental health funding, a new managed care program for people with serious mental illness, and funding to staff a new behavioral health access to care ombudsman program.

Many bills of interest passed: mental health parity (HB 10), the Sandra Bland Act (SB 1849), medication access reform (SB 860), mental health first aid training for university employees (SB 1533), special education reforms (including SB 160), Medicaid after jail (HB 337), peer services (HB 1486), mental health screening for children (HB 1600), law enforcement mental health bills (including HB 2619), postpartum depression screening (HB 2466), expedited licensing for out-of-state psychiatrics (SB 674), kinship care and foster care bills (including SB 879), mental health and criminal justice (including SB 1326), and cyberbullying (SB 179). Please note: the list above is not exhaustive. It is simply intended to provide a flavor of the mental health reforms passed in the 85th session of the Texas Legislature.

Capitol Day 2017We would like to extend our appreciation to the Texas Legislature, the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Lieutenant Governor for their hard work to improve the quality of life for Texans affected by mental illness and their families. Treatment works, recovery and management of symptoms are possible, and a high quality of life can be achieved with access to the right services and supports. Last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank you – our local affiliate organizations and our members – for working side-by-side with NAMI Texas this legislative session in advocating for mental health reform. Great progress was made this session thanks to the efforts of you and many others, but our work is far from complete. We hope you will allow us to visit with you in your community this interim to discuss more detail about the 85th session, consider the issues affecting you, your family and your community, and map out our advocacy plan for the interim and the 86th session.

Greg Hansch, Public Policy Director, NAMI Texas
Deborah Rosales-Elkins, Peer Policy Fellow, NAMI Texas

The 85th Legislative Session Has Begun!capitolc_1024

Visit our 85th Legislative Session page here for the latest updates and information.

advocacy-alert-image1National Call-in Day to Protect Mental Health

Updated January 14, 2017

Debate is raging over the future of health care—insert your voice into the conversation to protect mental health. Call Congress. Ask them to protect Medicaid and insurance safeguards that help millions of Americans who get mental health care. NAMI is partnering with the National Council for Behavioral Health, Mental Health America, Addiction Policy Forum and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to host a National Call-In Day on Tuesday, January 17.

Call (202) 224-3121, press #2 and enter your zip code

“As a constituent, I would like the Representative to protect people with mental illness who can’t afford to lose health coverage. Please preserve Medicaid and insurance safeguards that help people get mental health care. Thank you.”

Want to do more? Call your Senators with the same message. Call (202) 224-3121, press #1 and enter your zip code.

NAMI’s 2017 National Policy Priorities

Updated January  8, 2017

Invest in mental health and innovation

  • Reject Medicaid caps or block grants that drive down innovation and force state program cuts, putting individuals with mental illness and families at risk
  • Support Medicaid expansion, with income-based eligibility, to provide coverage and a pathway to self-sufficiency for individuals with mental health conditions
  • Ensure insurance market reforms include mental health and substance use disorder coverage in every health plan and at the same level (parity) as other health conditions
  • Increase investment at NIH and NIMH in understanding, diagnosing and treating mental illness

Learn more about our campaign to safeguard mental health in health insurance plans.

Learn more about our campaign to protect and expand Medicaid.

Promote early intervention

  • Promote early intervention for serious mental illness through continued federal funding set aside in the Mental Health Block Grant to support research-based First Episode Psychosis programs

Improve integration of care

  • Improve integration of health and mental health care through policies and financing that:
    • Support the Collaborative Care Model, integrating behavioral health expertise into primary care
    • Expand Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics that integrate primary care into behavioral health care clinics

Support caregivers, military service members & veterans

  • Support our nation’s caregivers by extending existing national caregiver support programs to include family caregivers of people with mental illness
  • Increase capacity for mental health care and promote continuity of care for military service members and veterans with mental health conditions

Learn more about our campaign to protect veterans’ access to mental health care.

End the criminalization of mental illness

  • Reduce the high cost of jailing people with mental illness by investing in policies and funding to ensure that every community has:
    • 24/7 behavioral health crisis response teams
    • Subacute and respite care
    • Assertive Community Treatment and Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (ACT/FACT) teams

To contact your legislators: