Policy UpdatesTexas House Committee on County Affairs – Mental Health Landscape & COVID-19

Texas House Committee on County Affairs – Mental Health Landscape & COVID-19

SUMMARY – Meadows Institute CEO Andy Keller, PhD, was invited to testify before the committee on the mental health impacts of COVID-19.


Cost to local governments in Texas from unmet mental health needs


Medicaid savings when 20% of beneficiaries with depression receive treatment under CoCM

*as of date of testimony

During his presentation to the committee, Dr. Keller emphasized the importance of treating the brain in the same way we treat physical health conditions, early and in primary care.

Dr. Keller discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health, sharing the Meadows Institute’s projections on rates of suicide and substance abuse resulting from a COVID-19 recession: for every 5% increase in the unemployment rate, an additional 4,000 Americans, including 300 Texans, could be lost to suicide. He also shared COVID-19 related mental health data from the CDC. As of February 2021

  • The number of people seriously considering suicide doubled.
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety disorder increased by 4x during the pandemic.

Dr. Keller noted that COVID-induced job loss has disproportionately affected people of color. He shared a 2020 analysis of 50 million patient health records that found higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19 in Black, Latino, and Asian patients.

Recommendations to the committee to address these needs and concerns included:

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.