Texas House Appropriations Committee
SUMMARY – On February 15, President and CEO Andy Keller, PhD, provided invited testimony before the Texas House Appropriations Committee in a hearing on behavioral health funding for the 2024-25 biennium.
During his testimony, Keller discussed the historic increases in mental health funding in Texas over the last four legislation sessions. Moving forward, the mental health workforce is the most critical factor limiting mental health care in Texas.
Keller commended the Legislature for its proposed increase in funding for new mental health facilities, but he warned that the promising programs and plans Texas has put in place require a sufficient workforce to reach their full potential.
Andy noted that recent efforts to expand salaries in the state hospital system are both necessary and welcome, but attention must also be paid to local mental health authorities, which are similarly struggling to attract workers.
“You’re going to absolutely have more people applying to the state hospitals,” he said, “but they’re going to come from our local mental health authorities.”
Texas also competes with other states to attract and retain mental health staff. Keller pointed out that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became easier to recruit staff because many rules were suspended so people could practice from out-of-state. COVID-19 hit health care systems very hard—and mental health care systems especially hard—and new competitive market conditions and inflation add to the staffing problem.
Keller also emphasized the ongoing importance of improving mental health care among children and thanked the Legislature for its ongoing commitment to the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium.
“I would argue (the Consortium) is the farthest-reaching such program in the nation,” he said. “I don’t know a single other state that is going to be able, in the time that we have, to reach every single school building in the state. That is unprecedented.”