Policy UpdatesTexas House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Article II

Texas House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Article II

SUMMARY – On March 4, 2021, Andy Keller, PhD, President and CEO of the Meadows Institute, was invited testimony at the Texas House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Article II. During his presentation, Dr. Keller discussed the mental health impacts of COVID-19.

Dr. Keller’s testimony began with an overview of how COVID-19 has dramatically increased mental health needs:

  • As of mid-February 2021, symptoms of both anxiety disorder and depression were up 4-fold.
  • The number of people seriously considering suicide doubled.
  • Mental illness increases the risk of COVID 65% and COVID causes more mental illness.

The Meadows Institute’s 2020 series of white papers on the mental health impacts of a COVID-19 recession projected an additional 4,000 Americans, including 300 Texans, could be lost to suicide.

With increased mental health needs, now is the time to protect the investments and work of the Texas Legislature. The 86th Regular Session resulted in increased behavioral health funding, impacting communities across Texas, and expanding access to care for all Texans, including veterans and their families, children and youth.

Recommendations focused on building upon the success of the 86th Regular Session, as well as the advances necessitated by the pandemic. They include:

1. Secure Access Gains Through Telehealth:

  • COVID-19 increased access to care through telemedicine, telehealth, and telephone.
  • Maintain these gains through the next biennium, at minimum.

2. Implement Collaborative Care Model (CoCM) in Medicaid

  • CoCM is a proven, team-based approach to detect and treat mental illness in primary care.
  • CoCM leads to cost savings and could reduce suicide deaths from major depression in Texas by 725 to 1,100 per year.

3. Fund State Hospital Redesign Phase III

  • Construction and/or operations requests have been made for Austin State Hospital, San Antonio State Hospital, Kerrville State Hospital, and UTHealth Behavioral Sciences Center.
  • Investments and work have already advanced these efforts. Additional funding is required to continue and complete this work.

4. Continue to Scale-Up the Consortium

  • The Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, which administers the CPAN and TCHATT programs, is critical to early intervention and the wellness of Texas children.
    Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN) calls from health care providers have significantly increased.
  • More than 1.5 million students can access Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT).